What was once unthinkable is now a reality: Nicolo Zaniolo is no longer a Roma player. After weeks of speculation, near misses, and the almost inconceivable sight of Zaniolo playing for Bournemouth, the club officially announced that Zaniolo, 23, has been sold to Turkish club Galatasaray for an undisclosed fee, rumored to be in the neighborhood of €22 million once all bonuses are considered.
After arriving in the Italian capital in 2018 as part of the deal that saw midfielder and fan favorite Radja Nainggolan move to Inter Milan, the immediate expectations weren't exactly high for Zaniolo, but given his exemplary record at the Primavera level, he was tipped as the club's new Totti; the player around whom everything else would coalesce.
And that plan was put into almost immediate action as the club threw Zaniolo to the proverbial wolves, giving the then 19-year-old his club debut in the Champions League against Real Madrid on the road. While he didn't exactly light the world on fire early in his Roma career, Zaniolo showed plenty of promise before successive ACL injuries derailed his young career.
Zaniolo scratched and clawed his way back into the first team in 2021, making 57 appearances in all competitions. While he was praised for his determination to return, Zaniolo never truly recaptured his form, scoring only four goals and providing two assists over those same 57 appearances.
With Zaniolo struggling to regain his youthful vigor and players like Paulo Dybala and Tammy Abraham stealing the headlines, rumors of an exit started to swirl around the Eternal City, with everyone from Juventus to PSG to Milan to Bournemouth linked to his services.
In the end, Roma and Zaniolo had to settle for perhaps the most unlikely locale, Galatasaray, while the terse nature of their announcement, which included neither thanks nor well wishes, speaks volumes about the dissolution of this marriage.
On the pitch, Roma isn't losing much, but the question of whether or not he'll ever reach his potential will likely linger among his supporters.