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The "almost Zaniolo" youngsters

Five products from the Giallorossi academy that was thought could burst immediately like the former Inter Milan player

The almost Zaniolo youngsters Five products from the Giallorossi academy that was thought could burst immediately like the former Inter Milan player

We can now affirm it without fear of denial: the Zaniolo mania has definitely broken out.

The nineteen-year-old entered quietly in the Nainggolan affair, who arrived in Rome with little more than the talent label, overturned the odds by taking advantage of an embarrassing season from Javier Pastore and Lorenzo Pellegrini's injury at a crucial moment of the season. Now everyone in Rome already shouts that he is the "new Totti" and to "give him the jersey number ten", in an all-Roman attitude (with its positive but unfortunately many negative sides) of players' exaltation, but it is good to remember that in most cases it was more the result of out-of-place pressure towards young and still inexperienced players. 


So let's look at some examples of roman talents that deserve the nickname of "almost Zaniolo".


1) Valerio Verre 

The perfect example of the parallel universe in which Zaniolo debuted at the Berbabeu but in a disastrous way. Verre is a son of Rome, who moves from the fields on the southern outskirts of the capital to the academy of AS Roma, with which he won the championship in 2011. The then first team coach Luis Enrique fell in love with him, and spoke very well of him taking him on the first team at only seventeen - he seems to be a crack on the verge of exploding and already makes fans dream big.

The former coach also puts somehow to end to his career as a young rampant in Rome, making him immediately debut in the disastrous AS Roma-Slovan Bratislava match, worth the access to the Europa League that the team captained by the Spanish coach missed. Not only the risky choice of the then winning coach with Barcelona, ​​but also the now famous violent outburst of an exasperated Romanist fan at the end of the game, now become sadly familiar to every supporter of the team and that is now a brand that the class' 94 has been attached to him for years: "I paid 26 euros to see Verre. VERRE! Who the fuck is Verre!?!?"

From that moment on, poor Valerio passed through countless loans and transfers of ownership, between Siena, Udinese, Palermo, Sampdoria and now Perugia, in Serie B - where he seems to be doing very well at the court of Alessandro Nesta, the former Lazio defender.


2) Stefano Pettinari

Another Roman born and raised in the youth teams of the capital (Lodigiani and Cisco Roma) almost immediately convinces the Giallorossi leadership that decides to let him join the first team at seventeen. He spent only three years in the AS Roma academy, immediately convincing of his skills, but the debut and the short pieces of game played reveal that the player was not ready as thought at Trigoria. He starts to go on loans while AS Roma that never fails to believe in his qualities despite several seasons aren't particularly brilliant. In the end the sponge is thrown and Pettinari was sold to Pescara in 2016, after ten years as a member of Roma.


3) Amato Ciciretti

AS Roma had so much believed in the abilities of little Ciciretti that they snatched him from Lazio youth sector at an early age. In reality, the initial love leaves room for doubts about the character of the boy, rather than a natural talent. Between Carrarese, L'Aquila and Messina Amato fails to further convince the Giallorossi leadership that sell him to Benevento, with which he won an historic promotion in Serie A. The season is disastrous for the team from Campania (with the exception of draw against Milan thanks to the Brignoli goal) but Ciciretti steals the eye for a series of class play and his exuberant personality. Someone even speaks of a veiled interest of AS Roma for his former player. In reality, actually the situation of Amato Ciciretti has no sense: owned by Napoli, it was first loaned to Parma (in Serie B) without practically playing, and then again this year again in Serie B but at Ascoli - even here it is not playing. But we do not want to stop believing in his magical left foot.


4) Andrea Bertolacci 

Today speaking of Andrea Bertolacci is like shooting on the red cross. Yet there was a time when the '91 midfielder was courted by half Italy and considered the most promising midfielder of his generation, that box-to-box midfielder who knows how to do all. Until 2014 it seems to keep its promises, or at least to always be there to break out definitively, with Rome that keeps him and redeems it from all loans, between Lecce and especially Genoa. Then comes the resounding transfer to Milan for a good twenty million euros, a figure that now seems nothing but that before the "Neymar effect" was definitely a lot - especially for a young player who was not yet fully formed. It seemed to have been an impressive and not very farsighted decision from AS Roma, with the fans indignant for letting go of such promising academy product. We know how it ended, with a Zaniolo effect on the contrary Bertolacci has never established himself in Milan and indeed has often given embarrassing performances that have attracted all the hatred of the Rossoneri fans.


5) Federico Viviani

Another Luis Enrique's trusty, as for Verre the Spaniard spoke enthusiastically of him and brought him together with Verre in the first team, making him play in that disastrous match with Slavia Prague. In AS Roma academy they tought of him as the new De Rossi, for similarity in the role and in the ringworm shown in the field. Rome sends it on loan, hoping to see him transform into De Rossi as soon as possible, which unfortunately will never materialize. It then goes on to a definitive title to Verona, which turns it on loan, in this season he's in Frosinone.


It is funny to note that the "little" Zaniolo, one of the brightest Italian talents of recent years, is not a product of the rich Giallorossi academy. From the surprise debut against Real Madrid to the double score against Porto (the youngest Italian in history to do it in the Champions League) it seems like an eternity, and instead there are only a series of matches one better than the other, in which as in a dream with open eyes the growth of the Giallorossi talent has not suffered setbacks.

All the players on this list are almost Zaniolo, everyone has lived a moment in which they seemed to be the future of Rome and of Italian football itself. They are also all born in the early nineties and winners in the youth categories. The generation from the mid-nineties onwards and the first two thousand seems to be doing much better (and just look at the current rose of AS Roma to notice). Let's sit down and hope for the best, keeping in mind that the five players mentioned above reminds us not all Zaniolos can be successful.