Sunday April 19 2020
Zaniolo: 'Injury helped me grow up'

Nicolò Zaniolo hopes to play again for Roma this season after his ACL rupture, admitting “the experience has really helped me to grow up” after shooting to fame with a debut against Real Madrid.

The 20-year-old has more time than he expected to recover from the torn anterior cruciate ligament in January, as the Serie A season has been stalled by COVID-19 and Euro 2020 moved to next summer.

“I won’t deny, the first two or three days after the injury was a huge shock and I could barely speak. I realised straight away it was a serious injury,” Zaniolo told Sky Sport Italia.

“I heard a crack even before I hit the ground and that was a horrible sensation. Watching it back gives me goosebumps. Professor Mariani came to see me in my room two or three times a day after surgery, to comfort me. If all goes well, it is thanks to him. My knee is reacting well, I set targets every day and hope to continue like this.

“If it’s possible, I would be very happy to end the season with my teammates. This experience has really helped me to grow up, to be honest. It makes you realise what’s important and to focus on the details.”

Maturation is something that Zaniolo fully admits he required, as he was excluded from the Italy Under-21 squad along with Moise Kean during the European Championships.

“We were late a couple of times to the team meeting. I was a little exhausted by the end of the season and let myself go a little bit. That taught me how I should behave and (coach Gigi) Di Biagio quite rightly chose to leave us out.

“It’ll never happen again, because I understood. It was a smart way of sending a signal to the rest of the group and I fully agreed with it.”

The son of former Genoa striker Igor Zaniolo was thrown into the deep end with his professional debut – even before Serie A – coming in the Champions League away to Real Madrid.

“I still remember that morning with (Eusebio Di Francesco) told me I was starting. I said yes straight away, but was also incredulous. It’s a day I will never forget.

“I didn’t even think I was going to travel to Madrid, let alone be in the XI. He kept it all very quiet until the last minute. I owe Di Francesco a great deal, but also to Roberto Mancini, who called me up to the senior Italy squad before I’d even played a professional club game. I thought that was a mistake on the list, too, as I’d done nothing and it didn’t seem possible. I was like a kid in a fairground at the Coverciano training camp.”