Privacy is often a foreign concept for famous footballers. The game’s biggest names see their every move dissected in detail, even when they are not on the pitch.
Nicolò Zaniolo has been the latest star to have the spotlight shone on his personal life, with a love triangle involving the young attacker, pregnant ex-girlfriend Sara Scaperrotta and the model Madalina Ghenea hitting the headlines in Italy this week.
That controversy has filled countless column inches, but a seemingly innocuous Instagram post on New Year’s Eve has drawn further attention to the starlet. That night, Zaniolo’s mother uploaded a picture that shows the 21-year old standing on his injured left leg while supporting her in a dip.
The subsequent media circus has resulted in Roma reportedly reconsidering a mooted contract extension for the former Fiorentina forward, whose current deal is set to expire in June 2024.
Although Zaniolo deserves his fair share of criticism for the social media slip-up, La Lupa’s executive leadership cannot let his sentimental soap opera influence their response. The player has promised not to shirk his paternal responsibilities, and at any rate his romantic exploits should not slow down his recovery from a second serious knee injury.
However, the same cannot be said of the much-talked-about mother-son moment. Zaniolo risked a setback in his recuperation by striking such a pose, which is all the graver considering his importance to the Giallorossi. Despite spending the majority of 2020 on the treatment table, he is still the capital club’s most valuable asset, with a market value of €45m according to Transfermarkt.
Given the self-inflicted nature of the photo furor, it is no surprise that the Italian international has angered his employers. Nevertheless, the club must be careful in their handling of the fallout. Using a heavy hand could potentially alienate their crocked creator, who may yet have an important part to play as the business end of the season approaches.
With a return to competitive action set for March, Zaniolo would add depth and quality to one of the league’s best offenses (3rd in Serie A with 31 goals).
The Massa-born maverick will also be motivated to earn a spot with the Azzurri ahead of Euro 2020. Roberto Mancini’s men must be considered one of the favorites to lift the Henri Delaunay trophy this summer, and Roma are also in with a shot at silverware.
They are still fighting on three fronts, with a Scudetto challenge not out of the question if they can maintain their magnificent form in front of goal.
With the groundwork laid for what could turn out to be a memorable campaign, the Giallorossi must make sure that the Zaniolo situation does not become more of a distraction than it already has.
Their initial public response has been positive, with head coach Paulo Fonseca striking a conciliatory tone in a press conference ahead of Sunday’s showdown with Sampdoria. Rather than burn bridges, now is the time for Roma to construct collectively.