Even more than a week after the closure of the Italian winter transfer window, Niccolo Zaniolo did not change his mind: he wanted a way out of AS Roma and did everything to make it possible. The 22-year-old’s decision to switch the Giallorossi with Super Lig giants Galatasaray is just further proof of the total breakdown between the player and the environment, notably coach Jose Mourinho.
At the end of prolonged negotiations, the Turkish side agreed to pay Roma a €15 million fee that will see Inter also earn a percentage.
However, Zaniolo’s departure also casts doubts about the future of a player that has already suffered two ACL injuries and was gradually trying to get back to his best level, not without difficulty. But now, will he be able to ever fulfill his full potential?
Why did Zaniolo leave Roma for Galatasaray?
It all began when Jose Mourinho did not call up Zaniolo for the Serie A fixture against Fiorentina, amid rumours of flu. A few days earlier, the coach had taken the side of the player, who had been booed by his own supporters following a meek display against Genoa in Coppa Italia. Clearly, it was not enough to prevent things from getting sour between the two, as something was cooking under the surface.
The breakdown became public when Zaniolo told Mourinho he would not join the team for the upcoming match at Spezia, triggering a trademark reaction from the Portuguese manager, who did not hold back while speaking to the press, as he conceded that the midfielder wanted to “leave the club”. However, he also underlined that a potential departure would have depended on the offers coming from other clubs.
AFC Bournemouth were the first side to try to sign Zaniolo by making a lucrative bid, around €30 million plus add-ons, which would’ve matched AS Roma’s demands. However, the Premier League side’s offer was overshadowed by the player, who knew that AC Milan sporting director Paolo Maldini was also keeping a close eye on him.
An attempt was eventually made by the Rossoneri to open negotiations with the Stadio Olimpico’s outfit, but Milan’s limited financial resources made it impossible to strike a deal between the two sides, as the Serie A reigning champions could only offer a loan deal with an option to buy in the next summer.
As a result, Roma ended up lowering their requests rather than keeping an outcast in their squad, accepting a €15 million bid from Galatasaray which also includes a percentage on a potential future sale, as stated by the Turkish club.
How will Inter benefit from Zaniolo’s sale?
Niccolo Zaniolo’s move to Galatasaray also gave Inter a reason to smile, as much as the Nerazzurri will probably still regret to have let him go in the summer of 2018.
Back then, Zaniolo still had to make his professional debut but was already regarded as one of the most exciting young players in the Italian footballing panorama, which is why AS Roma asked the Nerazzurri to include the midfielder in the deal that would see Radja Nainggolan leave the Stadio Olimpico’s side to join the Nerazzurri.
Rather reluctantly, the Biscione eventually agreed to sell Zaniolo, but not without taking some precautions due to his massive potential. Despite his lack of experience, the player’s worth was set at €4.5 million, with a 15% fee on a future sale completing the package.
As a result, Inter will now earn about €2.25 million from Zaniolo’s move to Galatasaray.
What to expect from Zaniolo’s future
At the age of 22, it’s rather disappointing to consider Galatasaray and the Turkish Super Lig just the beginning of an inevitable downward spiral for Zaniolo.
AS Roma and the Serie A were looking like the appropriate starting point for a player that, after having his path marked by heavy injuries, needed to build his confidence back while paying extreme attention to his physical health.
As much as he kept showing glimpses of his massive talent, Zaniolo has clearly underperformed in his two seasons under Jose Mourinho, his lack of coolness in front of the goal arguably being his major issue. This season alone, the midfielder has only scored once from 4.03 expected goals.
However, an alleged release clause in Zaniolo’s contract with Galatasaray leaves a door open for a brighter future. According to various reports, the player will be able to leave the Turkish side for €35 million in the summer of 2023, a figure that will lower to €30 and €25 million in 2024 and 2025 respectively.
That means that not everything is lost – should he play and shine on a regular basis, then several teams would be eager to give him another chance in the international football scene.