Tottenham Hotspur could end their creative woes with a swoop for Nicolo Zaniolo in January…
According to Calciomercato.it, the 22-year-old attacking midfielder is facing an uncertain future at AS Roma under former Spurs boss Jose Mourinho, with the north Londoners amongst the clubs interested in signing him.
In recent weeks, it’s thought that both player and manager have argued on the training pitch, and since then he has found himself sat on the bench.
Premier League rivals Manchester United are mooted as a potential destination, whilst Serie A giants Juventus are also said to be keen, with Roma valuing the young Italian playmaker at around €40m (£34m).
With Zaniolo falling out of favour in Rome, it would be a wise decision from Tottenham sporting director Fabio Paratici to launch a move for him this January, rather than waiting until the summer.
Conte desperately needs to find creativity from somewhere, even despite two second-half goals against Leeds United over the weekend. In the first 45 minutes, his side failed to register a shot on target in another half, making it over four hours since their last, prior to Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg’s strike.
They still rank second-last for shots per game (10.3) in the entire Premier League, with only Norwich City (10) below them, whilst they are amongst the six worst teams for expected goals, managing an xG of 13.75.
That’s hardly encouraging reading for a team sitting seventh overall in the table as it suggests that they are somewhat punching above their weight, and sooner or later, that trend will harm them.
There is clearly a problem in attacking midfield and Zaniolo seems primed to repair it, having been likened to the likes of Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard, who were renowned for their ability to arrive late in the box to score or help set up chances.
His emergence at the Stadio Olimpico once caught the eye of Roma legend Francesco Totti, who claimed that the 22-year-old “plays like a veteran,” before also adding (via the BBC):
“He has explosive strength and technique, and everything it takes to become a truly great player. Don’t let him hear me though. He may yet change course and I don’t want that on my shoulders.”
A serious injury ruined his chances of building on his early-career promise last season as he failed to feature across any competition in 2020/21. In the previous campaign, he delivered eight goals and four assists whilst averaging 2.9 dribbles and 1.2 key passes per game, showing that he likes to drive the ball towards the opposition’s box, where he can quite evidently contribute.
His average of one direct goal contribution every 228 minutes is still vastly superior to that of Giovani Lo Celso, a player who leads the Spurs squad for key chances created per 90 minutes, as he manages a goal or assist once every 338 minutes.
Valued at £36m by Transfermarkt, Spurs could make a very shrewd investment in Zaniolo, and of course Conte and Paratici will know him from their time in Italy, so if they want him, they must do all they can to sign him.
He’d be a major upgrade to Lo Celso and the perfect fit in a team crying out for some creativity and guile in the final third.