The European Championships may not have quite the same punch as the World Cup—though one could argue it's a somewhat greater concentration of talent—but Roma fans have been treated to some outstanding performances from Giallorossi players over the past 20 years. In 2000, Francesco Totti led Italy to the finals, chipping Edwin van der Saar and making the Team of the Tournament in the process. We won't mention Totti in 2004, but Roma fans were once again witness to an all-time performance in 2012 as Daniele De Rossi not only captained the Azzurri but played out of position in Italy's first two matches, providing rock solid defense in a pair of 1-1 draws against Spain and Croatia.
Whether it was Totti, De Rossi, Alessandro Florenzi and even Stephan El Shaarawy, Roma has played a large part in Italy's Euro successes in the 21st century, a trend that seems set to continue with several players earning Azzurri caps during Euro 2020 qualifying. While Gianluca Mancini and Leonardo Spinazzola have donned the blue (well, green, more like it) over the past few months, the hopes and dreams of RomAzzurri fans rested on the broad shoulders of 20-year-old Nicolo Zaniolo.
With six goals and three assists for Roma in all competitions this season, The Kid was exceeding his already impressive developmental curve, emerging as a dynamic scoring and play-making threat, a role he was starting to mimic with the national team as well. In five Euro 2020 qualifying appearances, including two starts, Zaniolo scored two goals.
But then came the injury: the torn ACL against Juventus on January 12 at the Stadio Olimpico; one of two ACL tears that day. While Zaniolo's Serie A season was unquestionably over, thoughts turned immediately to Euro 2020; a tournament that kicks off in his home ground five months to the day after his injury.
With images of Francesco Totti overcoming a significant injury in 2006 in time to make the World Cup, speculation sprang up almost immediately: could Zaniolo return in time to help Italy in Euro 2020?
That's a perfectly logical question—ACL recoveries are seemingly getting faster by the year—but perhaps it wasn't the correct question to ask. Maybe Roma fans should be more concerned with should he play rather than can he play?
Zaniolo's father, Igor, addressed these questions in an interview with radio station Retesport. Hat-tip to RomaPress for the link and translation.
Nicolò’s recovery is going very well, but it’s always better to trek slowly with this type of injury. An extra month of recovery is better than one less month
Nicolò’s didn’t initially take it well that he could miss out on the Euros, but now he’s digested the possibility of having to miss out the competition
Roma will make the final decision as to whether or not Nicolò goes to the Euros. Mancini has already considered the possibility of not having him available.
More of the discussion can be found Retesports Twitter page, but this raises an interesting debate: In the event Zaniolo is healthy, should Roma allow him to participate in Euro 2020?
If indeed Roma have that power, the debate breaks down along two basic lines.
Let Him Play: Fitness & Finessing Relationships
While there are basic guidelines for ACL recoveries, every body is unique. What might take one player nine months might take another six. Shoot, Davide Zappacosta has already returned to light training after tearing his ligaments in late August, and he's seven years older than Zaniolo. Point being, if Zaniolo is cleared by his surgeons, who are Roma to argue with medical professionals?
Furthermore, allowing Zaniolo to participate in Euro 2020 could ensure that he hits the ground running ahead of Roma's 2020-2021 season. If the club retains Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Paulo Fonseca has enough options to manage Zaniolo's load early in the season. Allowing Zaniolo to play will also keep him in game shape, where he would otherwise enter summer training camp having not seen the pitch in almost nine months.
Then there is the matter of finessing their relationship with Zaniolo, his family, and agents. ACL or not, Zaniolo is going to have no shortage of suitors in the coming months and years, so if he's fit as a fiddle for Euro 2020 and Roma holds him out, they risk creating bad blood with their budding superstar.
We're not suggesting that Zaniolo is the type to hold a grudge, but this is a delicate situation, especially if he's medically cleared. As much as people like to say that no player is bigger than the team, let's be real, that's non-sense. Zaniolo is Roma's future and they have to do everything they can to protect and enhance that relationship if they have any hope of keeping him.
Sit Him Out: Risk, Risk & More Risk
Look, Roma has been down this road before. Both Kevin Strootman and Alessandro Florenzi rushed back from ACL injuries only to suffer subsequent knee injuries shortly thereafter; Strootman after barely two months back in early 2015 and Florenzi AFTER THREE DAYS!!! in 2017. Even Rick Karsdorp, who rushed back from a meniscus injury, wound up tearing the ACL in his opposite knee six weeks after returning.
We can't necessarily draw a line of causation through any of those injury and recovery timelines, and they certainly have no actual impact on Zaniolo's recovery, but Roma needn’t look any further than their own backyard to see the disastrous outcomes of a rushed rehabilitation. Better safe than sorry, right?
If Roma are looking for a playbook to assuage Zaniolo on missing Euro 2020, it's simple—his age. At only 20-years-old, Zaniolo will conceivably be in the Azzurri mix for World Cup 2022, Euro 2024, World Cup 2026, Euro 2028, World Cup 2030 and possibly even Euro 2032, which is set to take place in self-sustaining space habitat a la Elysium.
He has a long career ahead of him, one that could be jeopardized by rushing back from an injury sustained in only his second season as a pro. And if you're a Roma executive, you need to plant that bug in his ear...repeatedly.
So, what should Roma do? Take the poll and give us your thoughts below.
If healthy, should Roma allow Nicolo Zaniolo to play in Euro 2020?
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