Nicolo Zaniolo, Bournemouth & The Decaying Structure Of Prestige In Football

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Nicolo Zaniolo is an Italian attacking midfielder who plays for Roma in Serie A. He won the Europa Conference League and has been called Italy’s best phenom for some time.

And, most importantly, he is a really good footballer. His titles and honors barely hint at his talent on the pitch.

He yo-yos the ball in between defenders, across the pitch, past the keeper but it always, invariably, lands back at his feet.

Despite his objective prowess, Zaniolo’s current season with Roma has been uneventful at best and messy at worst.

What To Know About Nicolo Zaniolo’s Transfer Saga

Nicolo Zaniolo, Bournemouth & The Decaying Structure Of Prestige In Football

In 94 Serie A appearances for Roma, Zaniolo has scored thirteen goals and five assists. He’s been plagued with ACL tears; one against Juventus in January 2020 and another against the Netherlands, which put him out for all of the 2020/21 season.

When he returned to Stadio Olimpico, former manager Paulo Fonseca was replaced by Jose Mourinho.

Tammy Abraham filled the attacking void left by Zaniolo’s injury and Edin Dzeko’s departure.

With Abraham irreplaceable in the starting lineup, Zaniolo found himself competing with Lorenzo Pellegrini, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and Eldor Shomurodov for minutes.

Although he did get the call in important matches; the 2022 UECL Final against Feyenoord where he scored the only goal, the Coppa Italia quarter-finals against Inter, and more; Zaniolo has had a frayed relationship with Mourinho and Roma.

READ ALSO | Explaining Juventus Transfer Chaos

This season, Zaniolo and Roma have not hit the ground running. Roma stands fifth in Serie A, and the only thing that separates them from Champions League football is Lazio’s better goal differential.

Zaniolo has done little to nothing to help that. He’s scored just once in 13 games, has had trouble avoiding cards, and has stretches of games where he just is not creative enough.

This 2022 Zaniolo is a far cry from the Zaniolo earlier, the one that won the Conference League and the one that invited comparisons to Kaka and Karim Benzema.

That, combined with the proficiency of Tammy Abraham, Paulo Dybala, and Pellegrini up top, led Zaniolo to tell Roma higher-ups that he wanted to leave.

Mourinho and the Roma officials gave him and his agent the thumbs-up to explore his options.

It sounds perfectly fine; a player with a bad run of form decides to ply his trade elsewhere.

The controversy starts with who exactly Zaniolo wanted. Clubs like Milan, Spurs, and Bournemouth. Yes, you read it right.

The Cherries, fresh off of a second-place finish in the Championship last season, and the team unsteadily staring down the barrel of relegation with 18 games to go were jockeying with Spurs and Milan for an Italian international.

Bournemouth has been very aggressive in the mercato this season. Although their spending is nowhere near the level of Forest or Chelsea, the Cherries were nowhere near frugal, signing Marco Senesi(Feyenoord), Marcus Tavernier(Middlesborough), and Jamal Lowe(QPR) in the summer.

In the winter, they blew even more cash on Dango Ouattara(Lorient), Antoine Semenyo(Bristol City), and nearly Nico Jackson(Villarreal).

Regardless, it was Spurs who started the race in front, but Roma’s insistence on a $43 million payment was a stumbling block for the London side.

Milan approached Roma a week ago in search of a loan with an obligation to buy for $27 million and agreed to personal terms with Zaniolo’s agents.

Bournemouth briefly discussed and hopped in the Zaniolo saga, ready to cough up $32 million.

With Spurs out of the race for Zaniolo; Roma refusing to budge on their demand for a straight transfer, Milan unprepared to meet Roma’s financial demands, and Bournemouth’s failure to convince Zaniolo to play for them, it seemed like Zaniolo would stay in Rome.

Mourinho seemingly confirmed it hours ago.

It seems I was right about the Zaniolo situation — so I see him staying. I want players who are happy at Roma but he’s asking to leave the club for months,” Mourinho told the press.

With that, the short-lived, week-long transfer saga was done. Zaniolo would be relegated to kicking up dust and watching games from the bench as Roma prepares for a fixture against Napoli.

READ ALSO |10 Underdogs Teams Who Defies The Odds

Bournemouth meddling in “the big boys’ business” is not a reason to reopen ideas of a European Super League, nor is it a valid explanation for the financial dominance of the Premier League over Europe.

You cannot point to Bournemouth waving $32 million around as proof that a relegation candidate in England can out-buy a Serie A champion.

This is hesitation from Spurs and Milan and an optimistic spending spree from Bournemouth.

Those arguments(minus the first one) would be applicable if Forest somehow stole Mbappe away from PSG or if Joshua Kimmich moved to Burnley over a Bayern contract extension.

Yes, there are some fundamental flaws with the modern financial balance between England and the rest of Europe, especially over the past two years.

In 17 transfers made in summer 2022 that cost more than 50 million euros, 13 were by Premier League teams.

But that financial disparity is because there are more foreign owners in the Premier League willing to spend money.

For many owners, the Premier League is a business investment; it’s one of the most popular leagues in the world, guarantees billions in TV revenue, and invariably attracts a loyal audience of billions. Bournemouth itself has a foreign owner in American businessman Bill Foley.

The interest in English clubs over other clubs is an issue outside of FIFA’s jurisdiction, and so is Bournemouth’s willingness to shell out more money than Spurs or Milan.

The Zaniolo saga unearthed a multitude of conclusions. No European club challenging for continental titles is ready to spend on Zaniolo.

Bournemouth has plenty of cash to spend. Bournemouth’s cash to spend is not a problem that warrants intense online discourse or a Times bestselling book.

And lastly, Zaniolo, the Italian attacking midfielder, still plays for Roma.




This content was from Deolu Akingbade, who also writes for football(In Detail). Subscribe here to get more content like that.


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