If Italian football had the same cachet in American media circles as sports like baseball, basketball, and American football, the rise and fall of Nicolò Zaniolo would make for one hell of ESPN’s 30 for 30. Hell, his story as it stands would fit well with MTV’s Behind the Music too: a wonderkid who appeared out of nowhere to set European football ablaze, garnering comparisons to Francesco Totti at the young age of nineteen, becoming a hero of his club and positioning himself as the future of the Azzurri, all for it to fall apart due to equal parts injury troubles and personality flaws.
All the drama on and off the pitch made Zaniolo feel larger than life, but The Friedkin Group’s recent decision to freeze The Kid out of the side until an exit could be arranged signaled the end of the fairytale. While early January saw Zaniolo linked to clubs like A.C. Milan, Tottenham Hotspur, and Chelsea, as the month wore on the clubs interested in actually paying for his services grew smaller and smaller, leaving Premier League sides like Bournemouth, Leeds, and Brighton fighting for Nicolò. Yet Zaniolo reportedly rejected those sides until it became clear they were his only options; ironically, those sides then rejected him for spurning them earlier.
Which leads us to today, where the once-mighty Zaniolo is without a club to play for despite his talent. The January market has closed for most clubs, except for some reason the Turkish Super Lig. Italian reporter Angelo Mangiante of Sky Sports has the scoop:
#Zaniolo ha detto sì al #GalatasaraySK— Angelo Mangiante (@angelomangiante) February 5, 2023
La formula a titolo definitivo di €15m + €7m di bonus facili da raggiungere. Si tratta ancora per alzare la cifra ma c'è ancora tempo (mercato turco chiude mercoledì) per accordo tra i due club.
Zaniolo si è convinto ad andare @SkySport pic.twitter.com/c3VWNDjkdw
For those of you who can’t read Italian, the gist is that Zaniolo has agreed to sign with Galatasaray, and the Turkish side intends to offer Roma €22 million including bonuses to nab Nicolò. My first thought? I would never have thought that €22 million would be enough to pry Zaniolo from Roma, but the past year of the Zaniolo Experience has made me realize... that’s probably a fair valuation of what he can be guaranteed to provide a club at this moment in his career.
It’s important to note that Roma maintained that they would not accept any offers for Zaniolo below Bournemouth’s €30 million valuation; with the Turkish transfer window set to close on Wednesday, will Tiago Pinto be able to drive Zaniolo’s price up to that valuation, or will he acquiesce just to get something for the player?
We’ll have more to share on this transfer saga as it develops, but I’ll leave you with a quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald: “Show me a hero and I’ll write you a tragedy.” In Nicolò Zaniolo, Roma certainly found a hero; the conclusion of his tragedy, at least in the city of Rome, may now be drawing to a close.