The bright spot lasted only briefly, maybe two seconds, a zoom of the television camera on a man in the stands of the long dilapidated but listed Artemio Franchi stadium in Florence. In the tired World Cup qualifier the Italians, after all Europe’s reigning champions, won against the weak and persistent Bulgaria Rai Uno In a particularly boring phase Nicolò Zaniolo, 22, in the picture, the mask just under his nose – as if the broadcaster wanted to sweeten the viewers’ hopes for the future.
Italy played weakly against Bulgaria
Zaniolo is also called “l’uomo in più” – the man who makes the difference. The cherry on the cake. Zaniolo is considered to be an epochal footballer. If he hadn’t had so much heartbreaking bad luck with injuries in his young career, you would probably be able to remember his name in Europe next to Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappé. At least that’s what they find in Italy, in Rome anyway, because he plays for AS on a daily basis. After his second cruciate ligament tear, Zaniolo was back in Italy for the first time in a short time against Bulgaria. On Sunday evening, in the key game for first place against Switzerland in Basel, it should then also be used.
But first to the hungover European champions. 54 days had passed since Wembley, since the European Championship final against England, the memorable jersey plucking by Giorgio Chiellini and the penalty shoot-out for the title, with the perplexed face of goalkeeper Gigio Donnarumma, who can not count so well and is only aware of his title-winning last heroic act when the comrades pounced on him. The special issues are still available at the Roman newspaper stands, for example the EM illustrated book of the Repubblica: very colorful, everything is included.
All summer long, the Italians drank from this fairy tale, which also became a metaphor, a symbol for the country’s resurrection after the many dramas of the pandemic. So the players reported back, comfortably bedded in the love of the people – and without any inner tension.
The result: 1: 1 against Bulgaria. Goalscorer Federico Chiesa (16.) had to compensate for the failure of the center forward again in the storm. Because Ciro Immobile, who fulfills this role at his club Lazio Rome with astonishing accuracy, was also on the pitch. But it was like he wasn’t there.
And so the Azzurri trotted 90 minutes towards the Bulgarian gate, in slow waves, hardly ever dangerous. A quick counterattack was enough for the guests to equalize (Iliev / 39th). Goalkeeper Donnarumma, who is only second choice for Paris, his new employer – “parked in Paris”, as the Italians say – reacted quite rusty to the 1-1 draw. Then the Italians trotted again. “We would probably not have scored a goal if the game had lasted 30 minutes longer,” said coach Roberto Mancini, more insight was seldom. the Gazzetta dello Sport wrote: “No drama, for God’s sake – but please make an effort now, ragazzi!”
After all: After the draw against Bulgaria, Mancini’s Italy are now 35 games without defeat in a row, previously only Spain and Brazil succeeded. If you don’t lose to Switzerland, you would be the sole record holder in this category.
Zaniolo manages to be a darling and a bad boy in one.
And on Sunday the young man from the stands in Florence may play a prominent role: Nicolò Zaniolo, son of Igor, who himself was a striker in Serie B and Serie C, born in the Tuscan Massa and grew up in La Spezia, is an offensive one Midfielder with an incredibly powerful urge to goal: 1.90 meters tall, 91 kilos, less than five percent fat. With its imposing shape, it shields the ball so effectively that you rarely see it in a gentleman of his age – like a steamer that displaces everything on its way. When Zaniolo starts to run fast, he stretches his upper body, it looks a bit like Tom Hanks as Forrest Gump.
The legendary coach Fabio Capello, who is by no means a man of exuberance, once said: “I fell in love with Zaniolo, he has the potential to Ballon d’Or “- the golden ball for the world footballer. Mancini called him into the national team, since Zaniolo had not played a single game in Serie A, that has probably never happened before. As a footballer, Zaniolo grew up at Genoa and Fiorentina. In 2017 he moved to Inter Milan, but after only one year it was given to the Roma as a side vegetable in a complex transfer operation: for only 4.5 million euros.
His debut with the big players was in the Champions League against Real Madrid, in the Santiago Bernabéu, something for the creation of legends. Zaniolo was obviously unimpressed. It is said that his confidence thrives on “healthy arrogance,” whatever that means.
Only his knees are soft. At the beginning of 2020, ligaments tore on his right knee, and as soon as he had recovered, the cruciate ligament on his left tore in autumn. “I closed myself in my apartment for a week, turned off my cell phone and just cried,” said Zaniolo recently, “I was close to giving it all up” – at 21 and a Capello in love. Italy was moved, Zaniolo now always sat in the stands of the Roman Olympic Stadium with his eyes extinguished, his crutches next to him. Unfortunately, he soon switched his cell phone back on – and let the world participate in things it didn’t really want to know.
Every day there were an abundance of selfies and sayings on Instagram, the most talked about was: “May I kiss you 25 hours out of 24?” A Romanian model was considered, much older than him. Nicolò’s mother Francesca, who, in her son’s cone of light with her very own representational neurosis, has posted an impressive following on social media – half a million followers – let the lady know that she should leave her son alone, please. Whereupon she stated that she had only seen her son once.
Then the former girlfriend called and said she was pregnant from Zaniolo, but he didn’t care about her. So stuff for a soap opera, detailed in all gossip magazines. In between, Zaniolo fell in love with an influencer, the two had identical hearts stabbed on their skin, for him it was the 17th tattoo, among other things there was already a Madonna, a tiger, a snake. After a few weeks, the romance was over.
Zaniolo was suddenly darling and bad boy in one. Little Tommaso has now been born, also on Instagram, in his father’s arms. Zaniolo says he has matured – he likes the man he is about to become. It’s nice to be able to say that of yourself. Now a few more goals for Italy, as a false nine, for example, and the story turns to the happy ending.