Nicolo Zaniolo has packed an awful lot of life into his first two-and-a-half seasons with Roma. From making his professional debut not long after his 19th birthday—against Real Madrid in the Champions League at the Bernabéu no less—to scoring his first goal three months later against Sassuolo, which he then followed up with a brace against Porto in the Champions League Round of 16.
After a torrid start to the 2019-2020 season, including eight goals and four assists in all competitions, Zaniolo seemed capable of not only meeting his lofty expectations but exceeding them...dramatically.
Zaniolo's luck would soon change for the worse, though. With two ACL tears in the span of nine months—first against Juventus in January 2020 and later in a September UEFA Nations League match against the Netherlands—Zaniolo's once promising career was suddenly cast in doubt.
Zaniolo's future was always a pressing concern for Roma, but where the conversation once concerned the club's ability to hang onto their budding superstar, facing another lengthy rehab program, the questions became a bit gloomier: Can this kid stay healthy? Does he even still have a future as a professional footballer?
For his part, Zaniolo managed to keep these questions in perspective. Speaking to La Gazzetta dello Sport in December, Zaniolo preached patience (translation via Football Italia):
I’m not in a hurry, I’m working well...Every day I come to Trigoria. After the last visit to Innsbruck, the workload will increase and when the right and left leg have the same strength and my head will be ready, I will come back calmly.
I have a career ahead and we can’t force anything or get caught up in the desire to play two or three games. The career is at stake, the future. More or less April. At the most. In time for the European Championship.
While it's not quite April yet, Zaniolo took an important step in his recovery today, taking part in some light training at Trigoria.
Earlier today at Roma's training grounds, Zaniolo participated in some individual ball-based training as well as some light running and agility drills. Taking to Instagram, Zaniolo described today's events rather succinctly, saying simply “quanto mi sei mancata” or, loosely translated, “How I've missed you.”
While this is certainly good news, Zaniolo will have to get the final seal of approval from his surgical team before fully returning to training ahead—he has a final checkup with his surgeon Dr. Cristian Fink in late March. So, for now, his desired early April return will remain more a goal than a certainty.
But either way, this is an exciting development for the 21-year-old Zaniolo. We'll keep tabs on his recovery as we head into spring.