Nicolo Zaniolo says he hopes to be ‘as good as’ Francesco Totti and is ready to put Roma ‘at the core’ like Daniele De Rossi did.
Zaniolo broke out for Roma and Italy last season, and the 20-year-old will be of increased importance to the Giallorossi in 2019-20 as they prepare for life without Totti and De Rossi.
“I honestly didn’t expect to have such an impact, given I came from the Primavera team and had a lot to learn,” he told These Football Times.
“I also made my debut for the national team and it was a surprise, but I still have many objectives to reach and I have to keep working to reach them.
“Without Di Francesco, I wouldn’t have made the breakthrough. He’s great with young players and I owe him a lot, as I do all the people at Roma who supported me.
“It’s always important to keep your feet on the ground. I have a family behind me who help me do that, who understand the dynamics of football and ensure I always give my best.
“Beyond that, the only way to manage expectations is through myself. I have to work hard, trying not to listen to what the others are saying, whether they are compliments or criticisms.
“I’m not Totti, but I hope to be as good as him one day. The only way I can do that is to work hard every day in training, feel the Coach’s confidence and then bring all of that on to the pitch, in front of the fans. After that, I’ll let them decide.
“I’ve always played as a No 10, given I’m good technically, but I confess that I like to play as a No 8 or even as a defensive midfielder.
“For now, I’ll play in any position, then maybe one day I’ll settle down, until a Coach arrives and sees me as an attacking playmaker. I’ll play anywhere, as long as I stay on the pitch.
“De Rossi is a leader, a fantastic person. It was easy to learn from him. From him I learned how to be humble, he was there for everyone: the fans, staff and the other players.
“He was always focused on Roma and I’m trying to do that in my life, putting Roma at the core.
“After that, I can improve and grow like he did. Now it’s time for me to write my own history.”
Meanwhile, Gazzetta dello Sport reports the Lupi are getting closer to the 19-year-old’s contract demands.
Nicolo Schira writes they will propose an offer of €1.7m a season next week, whereas the midfielder will accept €2m plus bonuses after initially holding out for €2.5m.
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