It’s fair to say that most Aston Villa fans didn’t know too much about Nicolò Zaniolo prior to the last couple of weeks. With that being said, what can you tell us about the 24-year-old?
Speaking about the personality of Nicolo Zaniolo - Zaniolo joined Galatasaray during an unfortunate period during the 2023 January transfer window, shortly after the tragic Earthquake that shook the southeastern part of Turkey and delayed the Super Lig for weeks. During this time off, Zaniolo was active during Galatasaray’s charity and earthquake relief efforts, and even chose the number 17 in memory of a 17-year-old Galatasaray fan that died in the earthquake. The player always seemed to get along with his coaches and teammates and was loved by Galatasaray fans.
In the 10 league matches that Zaniolo featured for Galatasaray, he mainly played as a right winger - occasionally moving to a central position playing as a #10 or attacking midfielder. It seems that in his career he has played more often as a #10, but seems comfortable in both roles. Zaniolo finished the season with 5 goals in 10 matches for Galatasaray, two of which being against our rivals Fenerbahce.
Those who have watched Zaniolo play on a consistent basis would agree that he excels in both physical and technical aspects. Physically, he is a top player - six foot two inches and built like Captain America. He is able to use his speed and physicality to both protect/win the ball and to drive forward with it when in possession. Technically, Zaniolo is a fantastic dribbler with great short and long passing, and perhaps most impressive of all, shot power. Nicolo Zaniolo can hit the ball with some real venom, and has scored a few goals for Galatasaray that looked like it was going to tear the goal netting.
The only real weakness for Zaniolo that comes to mind is possibly his habit of holding onto the ball for too long. On occasion he has gotten away with this in the Super Lig, but I would imagine this could be a problem in the Premier League where he will need to play a lot faster. If he can overcome this bad habit, I believe Zaniolo does not have many other standout weaknesses.
The circumstances as to how Zaniolo made his move from AS Roma to Galatasary are certainly interesting to say the least! Given the issues he had while at Roma, what have you made of him during his time in Turkey?
Prior to Zaniolo joining, many were worried about his mental situation and injuries. He was labeled as “depressed”, and was coming back from two major knee injuries. Despite this, he turned out to be a very mentally strong player once he found his place in the team and saw the love of fans for him.
He did not cause issues when he was on the bench behind Rashica. You’d imagine a young player with two major knee injuries might have their confidence damaged. A lot of players don’t come back the same player after one major injury, let alone two, but if you watched Zaniolo for the first time with no prior knowledge of his history, you wouldn’t guess the kid ever had an injury.
Overall Zaniolo seemed to thoroughly enjoy his time in Turkey, and even said during an interview for the Italian National Team that he was a Galatasaray player, was happy in Turkey, and had no plans of leaving the team. He seemed to have adapted to the Turkish culture and people very well, and would have most likely had a terrific season with us if he stayed in Turkey!
The Premier League is arguably the most competitive league in the world and at 24, Zaniolo is starting to enter the prime years of his career - do you think he will be able to hold his own within the top flight of English football?
Personally I think the Premier League is a great destination for Zaniolo. He’s strong, has pace, loves to attack, and take the ball forward. The physicality of English football should be no problem for him, and as mentioned above, his technical ability is great. He’ll have space to dribble and take shots.
I understand Italians don’t have the best success in the Premier League, but I think Zaniolo is built for it. I do feel that Zaniolo is the type of player that needs some time to settle into his surroundings, but once he does, he can be a really effective attacker. He has a strong desire to play in the Premier League, and I am confident that he will improve as a player in England and take his career to the next level.
What would you say to Aston Villa fans who aren’t sure about this transfer?
Well, based on the structure of the deal (per very reputable sources), Monchi is hedging himself and the club well here. So if he doesn’t work out as planned, his stay at Villa will not be longer than a year. So there’s that to begin with. Otherwise I’d tell Villa fans they should be excited. They’re getting a young kid who loves the game and is out to prove himself.
He’s expressed his desire to play in the Premier League. He’s had six months to recuperate from his negative experiences at Roma. In the process, he’s won a championship, was loved by fans, and played alongside football veterans like Mertens, Mauro, Icardi, and Muslera, who have all undoubtedly provided veteran experience and guidance. This stuff is priceless and I think he’s now ready to get back to playing football at the highest level where he deserves to be.