I don’t think it's any stretch of the imagination to say that Nicolo Zaniolo is already one of Roma's best players. Following injuries to Javier Pastore and Lorenzo Pellegrini earlier this season, Zaniolo was pressed into service against Real Madrid of all clubs, making his professional debut at the Bernabeau in mid-September, and garnered fringe minutes against Frosinone and Viktoria Plzen in subsequent weeks. While he struggled to adapt in these early season cameos, Zaniolo has really come to life since staking his claim in late November, becoming one of the most versatile, effective, and important players on the pitch in recent weeks.
Simply getting on the pitch is an accomplishment for most 19-year-olds in the top flight, but the manner in which Zaniolo has become so indispensable so quickly for Roma is nothing short of remarkable. We had high hopes for Zaniolo coming into the season, calling him the real prize of the Radja Nainggolan deal as far back as June, but I can't imagine many of us imagined this—a 19-year-old kid drawing hushed comparisons to Francesco Totti.
This is utterly foreign territory for Roma. Sure, we've had prized assets before, most recently Mohamed Salah and Alisson Becker, but neither of them were as young or seemingly so magical as Zaniolo. And, considering what happen with those two Liverpool scum, you're right to be worried about Zaniolo's future.
Well, if you believe this, you can forestall your anxiety for a bit...
While no papers have been signed, Calciomercato claim that Monchi has been working his fingers to the bone honing a new deal for Zaniolo, meeting with The Kid's agent, Claudio Vigorelli, on terms of a new contract. According to this report, Zaniolo's new deal will bump his pay up to €1.2 million per year through 2024, and may included certain performance bonuses..."rich bonuses" according to Calciomercato.
Nothing is official yet, and we've certainly seen Roma part ways with players they've extended in the past, to put it mildly, but the simple fact they're working on this deal so soon is an encouraging sign.
We still don't know exactly what Zaniolo will become, but his talent is undeniable; the kind of player you can't quite describe, but one around whom other players will coalesce and improve.
Come to think of it, haven't we had a guy like that around here before? They kept him around for awhile and it worked alright.
Not a bad plan to follow.