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Roma Needs to Get Tough in Any Zaniolo-to-Juventus Negotiation

Nicolo Zaniolo could very likely end up with Juventus this summer, but if a deal is going to happen then Pinto needs to make it happen on Roma’s terms.

Nicolo Zaniolo of AS Roma leaves the pitch after suffering... Photo by Nicolò Campo/LightRocket via Getty Images

As the summer heats up, beachgoers around the world have to keep their eyes peeled for that ominous curved dorsal fin gliding along the waves. As the ocean’s apex predator lurks just below the surface, that all too recognizable curved shape that sends a wave of panic through even the most intrepid souls. It’s a warning sign that will send even the most ballsy of surfers to the shore.


And while shark sightings may not be all that common around the beaches of Ostia, just outside of Italy’s capital of Rome, there’s an all too common one lurking in the waters these days. No, I’m not talking about a Great White or Hammerhead. Not even a Mako or Tiger. This is a different species entirely and it’s slowly making its way up the Tiber River toward Trigoria.

It’s the all too familiar Juventus that’s lurking around Italy’s capital these days. The black and white striped giants are the apex predators of Serie A and they’re on the hunt at Trigoria this summer. Nicolo Zaniolo has been targeted and Juve will try to force Tiago Pinto’s hand for Roma’s young star.

This is nothing new. We’ve seen this movie before. Summer after summer, Juve sets its sites on a prized target (often one of the most promising young Italians), hones in, and continues its pursuit until it steals away its prize from a less prestigious club. And more often than not it happens on the Bianconeri’s terms as they pressure the other club into submission.

It used to be Bepe Marotta or Fabio Paratici doing Andrea Agnelli’s bidding. Now, it’s Federico Cherubini. But, no matter how often the face of the sporting director leading the hunt may change, the methods rarely do.

The Juve method goes a little something like this...

First, have the media fabricate plenty of transfer rumors about the Bianconeri’s target. Let the journalists batter the player and his club with the notion of seeing him in black and white. Then feel out the player’s agent. If the player is open to the idea, negotiate with a player who only wants to join Italy’s most successful club. Once an agreement is reached, the player makes his will clear and in turn forces his current club to negotiate on Juve’s terms.

It happened with Federico Chiesa two summers ago from Fiorentina. Last summer, it was Manuel Locatelli from Sassuolo. And it has happened with countless others in the past. Juve finds creative ways to structure these deals so that payments are deferred in some sort of loan with an obligation to buy or by inserting unwanted players with overinflated valuations. All to the benefit of—you guessed it—Juve.

We’re seeing just that transpire again early in this summer transfer market with Zaniolo. All the major calciomercato sources have been “printing” story after story of proposals from Juve. None of these offers have come directly from the club to Pinto via phone, e-mail, fax, or even snail mail. Nevertheless, the media continues to throw around player plus cash proposals or paid loans with an obligation to buy ideas that would meet Roma’s desired €50 million price tag that has supposedly been slapped on Zaniolo.

How does Arthur+a primavera player+€10 million sound?


€10 million loan now + a €40 million obligation paid over a few seasons?

Those all sound like great deals for Roma. “I want to sell one of my best assets for unwanted goods or on credit with an IOU”, said no sane DS ever. But, they’re usually forced into it by Juve.

The latest reports (as of Monday afternoon) indicate that Juve has yet to make an official proposal. But—and it’s a big BUT—Zaniolo’s agent, Claudio Vigorelli, reportedly has an agreement for a 5-year contract at 4 million per season in line for his client. That verbal agreement, in turn, lays the foundation for Juve to approach Roma with an offer that favors the Bianconeri—first it’ll probably be a player exchange deal that Roma will likely shoot down. Then will come the €10 million loan with a €40 million obligation if reports are to be believed.

At this rate, it feels like the likelihood of Zaniolo heading to Turin is increasing by the day, especially after the player was mum on the situation heading into Trigoria on Monday. And as much as this may be a tough pill to swallow for most Romanisti (including myself), it may be inevitable. However, what’s not inevitable is how Zaniolo leaves.

Too many times before, we have seen Roma forced to sell prized assets to some of Europe’s bigger clubs during the James Pallotta era to make a plusvalenza and satisfy the FFP gods—most notably Mohamed Salah to Liverpool at a cut-rate price, among many others. And too many times we have watched Juve bully smaller clubs into selling or buying on their terms. Well, the buck has to stop here.

With the Friedkins in the owner's seat, FFP suspended, Pinto pulling the transfer strings, and Mourinho bringing a winning mentality to Rome, it’s time for the Lupi to put their paw down. If Zaniolo wants to go to Juve, then so be it. But, Roma has to sell on its terms. If Pinto’s valuation of Zaniolo is in fact €50 million then Roma needs to demand €50 million CASH. No less. Punto e basta!

Roma is no longer under the thumb of UEFA’s FFP policies and has a new stronger management system. Juve isn’t the juggernaut it was a few seasons ago. Let’s be honest, the finances in Turin can’t be great, otherwise, Agnelli’s club wouldn’t need to take Locatelli on a two-year loan before purchase.

Plus, if reports are to be believed and Matthijs de Light is going to be sold to Bayern Munich or Chelsea for something around €80 million then Juve will have cash on hand. So, Pinto needs to force Agnelli to pay up. If they refuse, then Roma needs to refuse to sell. Have Vigorelli turn the tables on Juve if his client really wants to go there. If a deal can’t be reached, so be it.

There’s no need to sell right away. There’s no need to strengthen a top 4 rival on their terms when the league is so wide open. Plus, Zaniolo is under contract for two more seasons with Roma. Will he be unhappy staying with Roma for another six months? Another year? Perhaps. But that doesn’t mean Roma needs to sell.

Having a pouty Zaniolo around is a chance Roma would have to take. It’s a chance Roma can afford to take with Mourinho running the locker room. This isn’t EDF or Paulo Fonseca, managers who may not have been able to weather such a shit storm, Mourinho can. And so can the locker room with leaders like Pellegrini, Mancini, Cristante, and Smalling.

Roma has been forced to sell in less than ideal conditions for too long. And it’s been far too long that Juve has controlled the domestic transfer market in Italy. Both need to stop and Pinto and the Friedkins could be the ones to do it. It may be risky, but fortune favors the bold, and it’s time for Roma’s front office to be bold. This could just be the first step in weakening Juve and strengthening Roma at the negotiating table for years to come.