In a feature interview with Gazzetta dello Sport, Nicolo Zaniolo has opened up on his move from Roma to Galatasaray and his exclusion from the Giallorossi first team squad after the collapsed move to Bournemouth in January.
The 23-year-old had spent five seasons in the capital before things began to turn sour, resulting in his exile to Turkey, having been unceremoniously kicked out of Jose Mourinho’s first-team squad.
For the first time since 2017, Zaniolo recently had to watch Roma take part in the Derby della Capitale against Lazio without being part of the Giallorossi team.
On that experience, he told Gazzetta: “It gave me a strange feeling. At first it was difficult to watch it from the outside, because I know what it means within the city. That’s why I hoped it would end in a different way.”
Zaniolo is aware of the feeling of contempt the Roma fans have towards him and was asked what he made of those who label him as a ‘traitor’.
He answered: “Rome gave me everything, thanks to Roma I made my debut for the national team and my son was born there. Being defined that way was a bad blow.”
Zaniolo was also questioned over his decision to rip off the Roma jersey when he was not brought on against Genoa in a Serie A fixture back in November, 2022.
He responded: “It was just a gesture of annoyance, not contempt. It’s like I punched the grass. It wasn’t meant to be disrespectful.
“I could talk for hours about unfulfilled promises,” Zaniolo said of his eventual exit from the Stadio Olimpico. “They told me I was an important figure, instead I was just a capital gain.”
“For two years I was told that the new contract was ready. In January last year I signed for a little more than what I was already earning because I was happy in Rome and I knew there were problems with Financial Fair Play. After lots of talk, I got bored. If I have to reflect on my farewell, I think others should do too”
He then went on to open up on his eventual switch to Turkey, having almost signed for Premier League Bournemouth in the back end of the January transfer window.
“Actually, it wasn’t just Bournemouth and Galatasaray, but I was kicked out for not accepting the English club’s offer and the fans took it out on me,” he said.
“Some chased me with their car, others came to my house. My family and I were frightened because we felt alone. People were so angry we couldn’t talk to them properly. In those days I also turned off my phone because I was getting a lot of bad messages.
“I was disappointed by the reactions of almost everyone. I won’t name names, but some said we were like brothers and then they didn’t even say hello to me.”
Despite the bridges that might have been burned as a result of the unfortunate end to his Roma career, Zaniolo still has a soft spot for his former team and wishes them well heading into the latter stages of the season.
On Mourinho, Zaniolo added: “He’s a great coach and a great person. He made me play almost always. Sure, he’s used to managing star players and I wasn’t one of them. I would have liked to have him in four or five years, but he gave me a lot all the same”
“They have a very strong team. They can win the Europa League and finish in the top four,” were his predictions.