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Sunday January 3 2021
Less stick and more carrot for Zaniolo

The Roma starlet has made the headlines for all the wrong reasons in recent days, but Owen Diana believes that his bosses should be measured in their reaction.

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.

@forkicksblog

Have your say...
@Platini and neither is Zaniolo, Those players I mentioned played similar style to Zaniolo and more or less have been performing at the same level as him, if not better. The reality is Italy don't have anyone on the same level or potential as Baggio, Del Piero, or Totti.. not even Zaniolo.

Italy do however, have a bunch of potentially world-class mezzalas. Build the team around Barella, Sensi, and Pellegrini instead of dreaming futilely about the next Baggio.
on the 5th January, 2021 at 1:09pm
@Anonymous: the system sometimes does not really matter as italy can play 4-3-3 but if he has a talented trequartista like Joao Felix, we would be asked to drop deeper to create even in a 4-3-3 making it more of a 4-3-1-2. Nothing beats a creative mind in football. The trequartistas you have mentioned pale in the shadow of the class Italy is used to of Baggio, Totti, Del Piero etc. Soriano etc will never be of that class.
on the 5th January, 2021 at 6:33am
it is concerning there is a pattern of behaviour which shows a lack of immaturity which doesn't bode well, equally he is another footballer who cheated on their partner.

this is not needed zaniolo should be focused on his recovery last time he rushed back and picked up another long term injury for his sack i hope he isn't rushed back
on the 4th January, 2021 at 2:52pm
Not the first time his name has come up like this for character issues. I remember him and Kean being sat out for the under 21's.

Hopefully he gets it together and doesn't turn out like Balotelli
on the 4th January, 2021 at 2:45pm
He looked like the real deal in recent years.

But 2 serious knee injuries are likely to slow him down. It'd be a shame if a genuine talent is ruined in one way or another.
on the 4th January, 2021 at 12:47pm
Just another Man-Baby to add to the long list that Roma have had...
on the 4th January, 2021 at 11:17am
I disagree with the opinion of the author that Roma must be careful in using a heavy hand. No player is bigger than the club - the way that Alex Ferguson dealt with David Beckham is an example that all managers should deal with players with a colourful private life. It's easy to use his age as an excuse, but I think that if Roma don't want unwanted publicity, they need to deal with this sooner rather than later.
on the 4th January, 2021 at 9:58am
@Platini that's just not true. Zaccagni has been an absolute beast with Verona and Soriano has been scoring plenty of goals for Bologna. Both are similar players to Zaniolo and have arguably been more consistent for the past few seasons. There's also Pellegrini who is a better playmaker than any of them and capable of playing as a 10 or in the middle. Italy don't need a trequartista anyway since they're playing 4-3-3.
on the 4th January, 2021 at 9:50am
I am not doubting this lads ability or potential but there is just something about his attitude that spells trouble. Add to that, his two very serious injuries and i would be quite concerned about him. It might be worth it in the long run for Roma to consider selling him for good money. This could be used in a variety of ways, either some shrewd ready made additions to the squad such as a striker to ease the load of Dzeko or reinvest it in some up and coming youngsters
on the 4th January, 2021 at 9:43am
Italy needs Zaniolo badly as there is a famine of trequartistas in the peninsula.
on the 4th January, 2021 at 8:47am
Zaniolo will (or may) end up like Cassano or Balotelli. We'll see.
on the 3rd January, 2021 at 10:17pm
It’s a case of the player having to much time on his hands being injured and bored . He needs to get back in shape to guide himself in the direction of a ball and not something else
He is class but both knee ops will slow him down just look at marko pjaca who had a similar problem . Worried that it could be a talent waisted for Roma and Italy time will tell
on the 3rd January, 2021 at 9:22pm

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