It was the performance Roma fans, and Nicolò Zaniolo, had long been waiting for.
The highly-talented Italian winger has struggled this season for form after coming back from his second ACL injury in two years. Moreover, his off-the-pitch issues have threatened to derail what has the potential to be a brilliant career.
The arrival of Jose Mourinho in the Italian capital also muddied the waters somewhat, as it was debatable whether Mourinho would take to Zaniolo. Mourinho has dropped Zaniolo on occasion, most notably for the Rome derby with Lazio.
However, against Bodo Glimt in the quarter-final second leg of the UEFA Conference League, Zaniolo gave everyone a reminder of the quality he has at his disposal. The 22-year-old scored a hat trick that helped the Italian side overturn a one-goal deficit and make it into the semi-final of a UEFA competition for the third time in five seasons.
All three of his goals showcased what the former Inter youth product can offer: skill, speed, directness, movement and finishing. It was the best Zaniolo had played all season, and even Mourinho no doubt would’ve been pleased with his performance.
But Zaniolo’s stay in the Italian capital may be running out.
Rumours have perpetually linked him with a move away from Roma, with the Giallorossi swimming in debt. With Mourinho expecting reinforcements this summer as he prepares for a second season with Roma, sacrifices will have to be made, and Zaniolo currently has the highest value out of any player in the current side that Mourinho would consider shifting.
The likes of Tammy Abraham and Lorenzo Pellegrini are considered untouchable by Mourinho, and so Zaniolo represents the player who could bring in the biggest income for the club.
The likes of Liverpool, Tottenham, Milan and Juventus have all been linked with a move for Zaniolo, with a price tag of around £50m mentioned in the Italian press.
Would Zaniolo be a good fit at Liverpool? The answer very much depends on the future of Mohamed Salah.
Zaniolo’s best position is on the right side of a 4-3-3 or as an attacking midfielder in a 4-2-3-1 system, but given that Jürgen Klopp no longer plays the latter and that Salah is the undisputed first choice in the former, Zaniolo would be sitting on the bench at Anfield a lot more than he currently is at Roma.
Moreover, Zaniolo can play as a No.10, but again, Liverpool don’t play with a traditional playmaker. Zaniolo could follow the path trodden by Salah and Alisson in swapping Rome for Liverpool, but any potential move would be linked to the Egyptian’s future.
Should Salah move on this summer, then a move for Zaniolo makes sense. But should he stay, then £50m is a lot of money to pay for a back-up, and it remains to be seen if Zaniolo would want to move to England to warm the bench.
Mourinho’s penchant for getting rid of young players has already benefitted Liverpool in the case of Salah. And, somewhat ironically, should Salah leave Liverpool, Mourinho could benefit the club once again, and history repeats itself.
Leave a Reply