Zaniolo: My footballing idol…

Roma starlet Nicolo Zaniolo has revealed that Milan legend Kaka ‘has always been my idol’ in football.

Zaniolo has been arguably Italy’s breakthrough talent of the season, scoring five goals for Roma in all competitions, and the attacking midfielder admits he tried to model his game on Kaka as opposed to Giallorossi icon Francesco Totti.

“My idol has always been Kaka – I loved his way of playing. It was a beautiful thing to watch when he touched the ball,” the 19-year-old told the club’s official website.

Roma starlet Nicolo Zaniolo has revealed that Milan legend Kaka ‘has always been my idol’ in football.

Zaniolo has been arguably Italy’s breakthrough talent of the season, scoring five goals for Roma in all competitions, and the attacking midfielder admits he tried to model his game on Kaka as opposed to Giallorossi icon Francesco Totti.

“My idol has always been Kaka – I loved his way of playing. It was a beautiful thing to watch when he touched the ball,” the 19-year-old told the club’s official website.

“I started out at Genoa and then went to Fiorentina, where I started playing with the Under-13 team, before moving up to the U-15s.

“Then I did a summer of training with the Primavera [U-19], after which I was told that there was no room for me.

“It came as a big shock because after seven years there, I’d made friends and felt part of a family. I cried about it for a whole week.

“Then I just rolled up my sleeves and I went to Entella, near to my home and my family, and that’s where it all really began.

“During the first month at Virtus Entella. I was in the Primavera squad but I wasn’t playing – I still needed to get used to my surroundings.

“I arrived when pre-season training had already finished. I was at my father’s cafe in La Spezia and I was crying. I said to him: ‘If I can’t make it here, maybe I need to do something else with my life.’

“He replied: ‘Do one last week at full throttle. Do it well, without thinking.’ That’s what I did and I kept going.

“I felt the moment was coming. I’d got close to making my debut at one stage and I still remember that – we were at Vicenza, winning 1-0, and the coach said to me: ‘Warm-up because you’re on soon.’

“Then we conceded and he chose to send a defender on instead. Then at Benevento, one day before my father’s birthday, I got my debut.

“It was an incredible feeling – I couldn’t believe it. Less than a year had passed since being offloaded by Fiorentina and I was making my professional debut.”

Zaniolo then recalled how it felt to make his official debut for the Lupi against Real Madrid in the Champions League.

“The boss had his technical meeting at 11 o’clock – he didn’t tell us the line-up but he said he wanted to talk to me after the meeting,” he explained.

“That’s when he told me I’d be playing and asked if I was ready. I said I was. Rather than resting, I spent all day in my room, looking at the ceiling.

“Once I was out on the pitch, I just thought about playing and doing what I knew I could do. When you’re out there on the pitch, that’s all you think about.

“[Daniele] De Rossi came and told me to relax, and play as I know how to – with two touches. [Francesco] Totti came to tell me the same thing.

“There’s been a lot more attention on me, as well as the people close to me. I prefer to talk about what I do on the pitch, rather than what goes on off it.

“I love football – this is my passion. I’m happy with the season I’m having and I hope to keep going like this.

“It’s a feeling that, even now, I can’t describe to you. I’ve perhaps not even processed what happened against Porto.

“Now I just need to train – that’s what I’m focusing on, going hard out on the pitch to get those feelings again.” 

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