Nicolo Zaniolo has addressed the summer speculation linking him with a move to either Tottenham or Juventus, and his response will test the resolve of Antonio Conte and co.
The 23-year-old emerged on the radars of both Juventus and Tottenham during the summer. He remains a regular feature of Jose Mourinho’s front line in Rome, though Juventus have proved a difficult proposition to turn down for both Serie A players and clubs.
Spurs too were linked amid uncertainty surrounding several of their attackers. Bryan Gil was tipped to return to Spain on loan, while Lucas Moura has entered the final season of his contract.
Both Gil and Moura would remain, meaning a Zaniolo deal wasn’t pursued with full force.
However, Italian outlet Il Messaggero recently reported Zaniolo’s future is coming to a crossroads.
His current contract expires in 2024 and upcoming talks over an extension may have a mountain to climb.
That’s because the forward’s salary demands are reportedly far higher than the €3.5 million-a-year (approx. £60,000-a-week) Roma are willing to offer.
However, when speaking on Wednesday ahead of Roma’s Europa League tie against Finnish side HJK, Zaniolo poured cold water on talk of a Roma exit any time soon.
Zaniolo allays Roma exit fears
The Italy international pointed to the fact there’s over a year and a half left to negotiate a new deal. That would suggest his contract running down isn’t likely to prompt Roma into selling any time soon.
“By now I’m pretty used to hearing every year about how I need to leave here and go there… but then every time I always stay here.
“It’s more of a drama that you guys create amongst yourself, amongst the media, then things I really think about.
“In terms of the training work before we started again at Trigoria, that’s what I always try to do – because with the injuries that I’ve had I always want to do everything I can to make sure I’m in shape and not behind in any way.
“In terms of my contract, we still have a year and a half to talk about that.
“Now is not the right moment, because tomorrow we face Helsinki and then on Sunday there is Atalanta.
“I am focused 100 percent on the games and everything outside that I try to ignore.”
When asked if he envisions himself staying in Rome for the long haul, Zaniolo replied: “Roma is my priority. The club has given me a lot, it’s given me everything and I can only be thankful for that.
“I play for Roma and we hope to win more things.”
What do Tottenham do next?
Spurs have found great success plundering Serie A since Conte and Fabio Paratici took the reins.
Cristian Romero, Dejan Kulusevski and Rodrigo Bentancur have all been roaring successes when signed from Italian clubs.
The links to Zaniolo are therefore understandable, and Lucas Moura’s future may hold the key.
The Brazilian claimed Spurs have an option to extend his contract for an extra year beyond this season. However, one journalist believes there’s a “real chance” Tottenham sell while they still can in January.
If Lucas were to be turfed out, Tottenham would need a new addition in the winter window and it doesn’t sound like Zaniolo will be available.
That would therefore give us a clearer indication of just how strong Tottenham’s interest in the Roma ace is.
If they’re determined to land him, they’d be unwise to sign another forward before Zaniolo potentially becomes available at a later date.
If they do sign a new attacker in January or next summer, it stands to reason Zaniolo won’t join too.