At 19, Nicolo Zaniolo is the next big thing for Roma
ROME (AP) — Still only 19, Nicolo Zaniolo always seems to be a step ahead of the game.
The talented midfielder was called up to Italy’s national team in September before he had ever played a top-division match for his club.
Days later, he debuted for Roma by starting against Real Madrid in the Champions League at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium — before appearing for the Giallorossi in Serie A.
Zaniolo was named Roma’s best player in both matches by the Gazzetta dello Sport.
Against Madrid, he provided the cross that Cengiz Under inexplicably failed to redirect into an empty net from point-blank range.
Against Inter, Zaniolo should have earned an early penalty that the referee waved off and was Roma’s most dangerous player until he exited to a standing ovation in the second half.
“I’m happy that (Roma coach Eusebio) Di Francesco is playing Zaniolo,” Italy coach Roberto Mancini said. “He’s got a good head on his shoulders and he’s a lefty, which is fairly rare.”
Having played on Inter Milan’s youth side last season, Zaniolo joined Roma as part of the deal that sent Radja Nainggolan in the other direction. He’s comfortable in multiple positions, from playmaker to the left wing or even as a false 9.
“Zaniolo is explosive and he plays with an unusual ease,” retired Roma captain Francesco Totti said. “If he continues this way he could become a great player. But don’t let him know it, because then if things change it will be my fault.”
Ronaldo scored his 10th goal of the season in Juve’s 3-0 win at Fiorentina on Saturday, becoming the co-leading scorer in the Italian league.
With that penalty, Ronaldo also became the first Juventus player to score 10 in his first 14 league appearances since John Charles in 1957-58.
Ronaldo joined Juventus from Real Madrid in the offseason for a Serie A record 112 million euros (then $131.5 million). He had spent nine years at Madrid, becoming the Spanish club’s all-time leading scorer with 451 goals in 438 matches.
Ronaldo has been playing and scoring regularly this season despite facing a rape allegation in the United States.
Kathryn Mayorga filed a civil lawsuit in September in Nevada claiming Ronaldo raped her in his Las Vegas hotel room in 2009. Police reopened an investigation into the allegation at her request. Ronaldo has denied any wrongdoing.
Juventus has now won 13 of its 14 matches and has 40 points. It’s the best start to a season for any Serie A club since three points were introduced for a win in 1994.
The Bianconeri are on pace to break the Serie A record of 102 points, set by Juventus in the 2013-14 season.
“We have a team of top players with great character,” Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri said. “To win games, you have to be prepared to go the extra yard, earn an extra inch. You must have the humility to match your opponents physically — and my players do all that.”
THE DEVIL WEARS BRITISH
With former Arsenal CEO Ivan Gazidis assuming the same position at AC Milan this month, Italian media are speculating that he will help the club lure at least two players from the Premier League — plus bring Zlatan Ibrahimovic back to the Rossoneri.
With a front-page photo of Gazidis wearing a jacket in the image of the Union Jack flag , a Gazzetta dello Sport headline on Saturday proclaimed that “The devil wears British,” referring to Milan’s nickname as “the devil.”
The reports point to Cesc Fabregas and one of two Chelsea teammates, Gary Cahill or Andreas Christensen, moving to Milan.
Meanwhile, there is widespread speculation that Ibrahimovic is interested in a loan move from the Los Angeles Galaxy.
More pressing for Gazidis, perhaps, is dealing with UEFA on likely financial fair play sanctions before the end of the year.
Gazidis is reportedly earning 4 million euros ($4.5 million) per year with Milan, 1 million euros more than he earned at Arsenal.
“It’s fascinating when he talks. You can tell he’s got experience and knows football,” Milan coach Gennaro Gattuso said. “He’ll make us more valuable.”
A 2-1 victory over Parma on Sunday moved Milan into the top four and the Champions League places.