Aston Villa

Aston Villa

Premier League • England

Aston Villa star all but confirms summer exit with stinging ‘expected more’ admission

A close-up shot of Nicolo Zaniolo with a prominent Aston Villa badge alongside him

Nicolo Zaniolo has struggled to force his way into Unai Emery's plans at Aston Villa

On-loan Aston Villa midfielder Nicolo Zaniolo has all but confirmed he will return to parent club Galatasaray ahead of a big decision on his future in the summer, admitting he was “expecting more” minutes under Unai Emery.

Zaniolo arrived on a season-long loan from Turkish giants Galatasaray in August but has struggled to make an impact at Aston Villa, starting just seven Premier League games having struggled to dislodge the likes of Leon Bailey, Jacob Ramsey and Moussa Diaby from Emery’s lineup.

Reports last month indicated that, despite the presence of a “conditional compulsory purchase option” in Zaniolo’s loan agreement, Aston Villa have no intention of making the move permanent in the summer.

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Speaking to Italian publication Corriere dello Sport, former Roma star Zaniolo has heavily indicated that he will not be extending his stay at Villa, with Galatasaray poised to make a decision on his future in the coming months.

He said: “I’m focused on Aston Villa, then Galatasaray will decide my future.”

“I miss Italy, of course… but my agent will inform me in case of concrete proposals.”

“But now it’s up to the clubs to define my future: the card is owned by Galatasaray.

“In the meantime let me say that I am grateful to [Aston Villa president of football operations] Monchi for still having bet on me after taking me at Roma when I was 19 years old.”

Zaniolo compares Unai Emery to Guardiola, Klopp, Mourinho

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Zaniolo admitted that he expected more minutes on the pitch at Villa Park, but cushioned his criticism with warm words for Emery, whom he believes is among the greatest coaches in the world.

“He is one of the best [managers] around, he is improving me in all aspects,” he said. “I put him on the same level as [Pep] Guardiola, [Jurgen] Klopp and [Jose] Mourinho.

“It’s true, I’m not having a lot of game time and I was expecting more.”

“But I’m honest enough to say that Emery is world-class coach.”

Zaniolo’s loan departure from Galatasaray last summer came just months after the Italian international joined the Turkish club from Roma on a four-and-a-half year contract for an initial €16.5million fee in February 2023.

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The 24-year-old, whose Galatasaray contract is believed to contain a release clause of €35m, has denied suggestions that he could seek a return to Italy with Roma’s local rivals Lazio.

Asked if he could join Lazio, he said: “”I don’t know anything.

“But anyway, I want to be honest: for what Roma has represented for me and also out of respect for the Lazio fans, it would be an unfeasible situation.”

Zaniolo has admitted that he struggled to adapt to life in Turkey, hinting that he could seek a return to his homeland in the summer.

Asked what went wrong for him at Galatasaray, he said: “Nothing, I gave everything there too.

“It was my first experience abroad and Turkey is even more complex for an Italian to understand. Luckily I found many fellow countrymen in Istanbul.

“Now let’s see what will happen in the summer.”

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