By 90Min
June 21, 2019

Nicolo Zaniolo emerged as one of the hottest prospects in European football during the 2018/19 campaign, with his performances attracting interest from the likes of Tottenham and Arsenal.

The 19-year-old shone for Roma in his debut Serie A campaign, earning two caps for Italy along the way, and is now set to be at the centre of a chaotic bidding war this summer.

But how much do you know about him? Well, incase it's not very much, here's everything you need to know about the Italian wonderkid...


Inter's Biggest Regret Since Coutinho

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So, Inter selling Philippe Coutinho for just £8.5m was a bad piece of business. But they clearly didn't learn from that lesson and last year, they decided to agree a swap deal with Roma for Radja Nainggolan, plus the measly sum of £4m for Zaniolo.

Zaniolo didn't make a single appearance for Inter, but his performances in the youth team indicated that he had a bright future ahead of him, scoring 13 goals during the 2017/18 season as they won a league and cup (of the super variety) double.

Inter jumped the gun and took a huge gamble by letting go of Zaniolo so easily - particularly as he is now being valued at around £63m. Whoops.


He Was Called Up by Italy Before Making Roma Debut...

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Such is Zaniolo's undeniable talent, he earned his first call-up to the Italian senior squad before he had even made his debut for Roma, just a few months into the 2018/19 season.

Roberto Mancini called the youngster up to the Italian squad for Nations League matches against Poland and Portugal, despite the fact that he hadn't made a single Serie A appearance during his fledgling career. 

Only Marco Veratti, Massimo Maccarone and Raffaele Constantino had ever achieved that same feat.

Speaking about Zaniolo's call-up, Mancini said: "Someone, perhaps as a joke, told me I was crazy. But... I already knew something and I wanted to see it live. It seems to me that the facts agree with me."


...Against Real Madrid

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Not the easiest fixture to make your debut in, that's for sure. Nonetheless, Eusebio Di Francesco opted to provide him with his first start in a Roma shirt against Real Madrid in the Champions League last September.

Roma were defeated 3-0, but Zaniolo made a decent impact - which of course meant that he was immediately branded as the new saviour of Italian football. 

Zaniolo went on to score a brace in the first knockout round of the competition against Porto, but he was unable to prevent I Giallorossi from slipping to defeat in the second leg of the tie against the Portuguese Outfit.


Versatility Is One of His Biggest Strengths

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Versatility is essential in modern football, particularly when it comes to central midfielders. 

Zaniolo has versatility in abundance, and he has proven to capable of fulfilling a number of roles for Roma. He predominantly plays as a 'trequartista', but is more than capable of doing a job in a deeper midfield role, as well as out on the right flank.


The youngster is well aware that his versatility is one of his biggest strengths, saying: "I think that knowing how to play in a number of different roles can help the team in tough moments.”


Comparisons to Legends of the Game Have Already Been Made

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As is the case with any young player, Zaniolo has inevitably been compared to a number of previous legends of the game.

Inter youth coach William Vecchi claimed that "he’s a midfielder with quality and also a runner, like Gerrard or Lampard", while his father likened him to current Serie A star Sergej Milinkovic-Savic due to his unique physique.

The comparisons are flattering, but it must be remembered that Zaniolo is still only 19-years-old. He has a long way to go before he can truly be considered one of the best midfielders in world football - but the sky does seem to be the limit in this case.

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