Zaniolo, Monchi’s champion ‘gift’ to José Mourinho

60 years after winning the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup in 1962, Roma lifted the second European title in its history in Albania, the first for a Serie A club in almost the last fifteen years. He did it with José Mourinho on the bench and with a goal by the playmaker-extreme Nicolo Zaniolo (Massa, Tuscany, 1999), one of the great stars of the giallorosso team, again, despite the fact that two serious knee injuries have threatened to take his career ahead of him. Zaniolo became a hero almost four years after arriving in the Italian capital at the hands of the then romanist sportsman, Ramon Rodriguez Verdejo, Monchi. ‘Monqui’, the transalpine fans pronounced then (and now).

With a long stride, class in the game and an imposing physique (1.90), Nicolo had not yet turned 19 and was entering the transfer operation from Belgian Nainggolan to Inter. The Nerazzurri valued him in a figure that from some points in Rome was considered almost crazy: 4.5 million euros, too much money a priori for a boy who had not even debuted in Serie A and whose background in the elite was limited to seven games in B with the very modest Virtus Entella.

But Monchi decided to take a risk. Over time, some languages ​​have ensured that the man from Cádiz did not have much to do with the arrival of the young Tuscan value. “Monchi didn’t even know who Zaniolo was,” James Pallotta said a few months agoformer president of Roma and declared enemy who tried to launch a smear campaign against San Fernando. Francesco Totti, Romanist legend, has denied this and other slanders.

The fact is that Zaniolo, who has multiplied his market value by almost 10, was summoned by Italy just three months after joining Roma. There, his signing could already be considered a success. In February 2019 he became the youngest footballer to score three goals in Serie A and days later he also achieved a significant milestone against Porto, that of the Italian younger who managed to score a double in the Champions League.

A right cruciate break in January 2020 he stopped his career, but Zaniolo pressed in the recovery and during July, when the season had been lengthened by the Covid, he returned to compete with the romanistas. The joy was short-lived: he just a few weeks afterhen, in a Nations League match with Italy, he tore the same ligament but in his left knee. The new misfortune seemed to curtail his career and kept him almost away from the playing fields for a year, in addition to leaving him without what seemed like a participation secure in Euro 2021, which Italy ended up winning.

This last campaign, the one of his complete return, Nicolo has played 28 games in Serie A, 12 in the Conference League and two in the Coppa Italia, with a not inconsiderable balance of 8 goals and 9 assists. With a whole career ahead of him, he is barely 22 years old, he is sounding again for some of the greats of the Continent. For now, the goal worth a title has been scored to prove a successful coach right, José Mourinho, and the sports director who opted for him: Monchi.