Roma have had the good fortune of having some pretty sought after players over the years. From Francesco Totti and Daniele De Rossi back in the day to Erik Lamela and Marquinhos at the outset of the American regime to Mohamed Salah, Alisson Becker and Kostas Manolas in recent seasons, the Giallorossi have had more than their fair share of transfer overtures from their European colleagues.
However, Totti and De Rossi aside, I'm not sure we've ever faced a contract negotiation as perilous as Nicolo Zaniolo's. While we can quibble with the amount of praise and presumed greatness he's been handed after only one season in the top flight, his talent is easy to see and his potential is mind-bottling.
As we've mentioned several times throughout this season, Zaniolo is the closest thing to a number ten Roma has had since Totti—and yes, I know that comparison is sort of odd because we had Totti just two years ago, but you get what I mean, right? Zaniolo just has the it factor; he looks like a guy like Totti, a player who will instantly make everyone else around him better.
So, having said all that, and considering Roma's somewhat uncertain future, both in terms of their European aspirations and who will actually be calling the shots on the sidelines, in the boardroom and the possibly the owner's box, Zaniolo's Roma future is far from assured.
With everyone from Spurs to Juventus keeping tabs on his future, Roma have very little room for error in their quest to lock Zaniolo down with a new and more lucrative contract.
Settimana prossima nuovo summit tra la #Roma e Vigorelli, agente di Nicolò #Zaniolo. Giallorossi offriranno 2 mln più bonus per rinnovo al 2024: il gioiellino ne vuole 2,5 di base fissa per arrivare con i premi comodamente a 3. Intanto #Juventus e #Tottenham restano in pressing— Nicolò Schira (@NicoSchira) May 24, 2019
You don't really need to read Italian to get the gist of Schira's Tweet. The GdS journalist reports that Roma and Zaniolo's camp are about €1 million apart in their negotiations, with the club offering a flat €2 million salary and Zaniolo's reps holding out for a €2.5 million + €500,000 in bonuses. That potential €3 million salary would make Zaniolo Roma's fourth highest paid player, trailing only Edin Dzeko, Javier Pastore and Steven Nzonzi.
Before you react, I want you to digest that last sentence. While we can easily justify Dzeko being the club's top wage earner—despite his struggles this season, he is one of the best goal scorers in club history—but the fact that an injury plagued over the hill forward like Pastore and a slow as molasses one dimensional midfielder like Nzonzi are making a combined €7.6 million should be more concerning than giving a 19-year-old midfielder a nearly 400% raise.
Giving fat salaries to players no longer deserving of them is more detrimental to Roma's long-term viability than ponying up for a budding star. If Roma don't want to give Zaniolo a salary commensurate with his talent and potential then folks like Spurs or Juve or Chelsea or literally any other team on the planet with eyes and a modicum of common sense will.
If we want to be extremely optimistic and assume that Roma will only be waylaid one-year by their doomed 2018-2019 season then Zaniolo should be the center piece of Roma's next good-to-great team, and even if they have to slightly overpay to reap those benefits, in my eyes its better than rewarding the past production of guys like Nzonzi or Pastore.
In the past, Roma had the advantage of dealing with players whose love for the club and city allowed them to retain them for far less than they'd fetch on the open market.
They may not have that luxury with Zaniolo. Pay the kid what he's worth.