Near the bottom of David Hytner’s Guardian article about Tanguy Ndombele’s trip to London for a medical with Tottenham Hotspur is another piece of intriguing transfer window gossip, one that we should probably also highlight. While Hytner doesn’t bury the lede — the Ndombele news is obviously the key piece of information for those who only read the first two paragraphs of an article — he does drop an interesting tidbit that suggests that Roma are open to making a move for Tottenham defender Toby Alderweireld, with Niccolo Zaniolo possibly moving the other way.
Roma's Nicolo Zaniolo?— Ted Knutson (@mixedknuts) February 13, 2019
Pretty, pretty exciting. pic.twitter.com/333HzRYf7R
We haven’t really talked about Zaniolo this window. He’s been linked with Spurs for a while now, but from rather dubious sources and there wasn’t much to indicate that he was anything more than a name on the list. Zaniolo is a 20-year old attacking midfielder that Mauricio Pochettino is supposedly quite enamored with. He’s had something of a breakout season for Roma in 2018-19, scoring four goals and tallying 2 assists in 1700 minutes of action in Serie A. StatsBomb did a write-up on him back in March where they gushed over his potential as a future superstar, though with the caveat that while an exceptional passer he hasn’t yet shown the speed to replicate his Roma success in the Premier League and thus had some hesitation.
Zaniolo, along with Giovani Lo Celso, would likely be a player tapped by Spurs to replace the creative output of Christian Eriksen, who is looking more and more likely to head to Real Madrid this summer, and according to Hytner Spurs are hoping to use Roma’s interest in Alderweireld to help bring about a player-plus-cash deal for Zaniolo, who is rated at around £40m.
There are some problems with this rumor, though. First, I somewhat doubt that Toby had a move to Roma in mind when he refused to sign a new contract at Tottenham last year hoping for a step up in clubs and a big payday. Also, I have my doubts as to whether Roma would be able to offer the wages that Toby is demanding. It’s also not clear whether Roma would be at all interested in losing one of their top young talents in exchange for a 30-year old CB (who admittedly is one of the best in the world at what he does).
There’s also the implication that any non-Ndombele or Lo Celso transfer moves would be contingent on the funds from Eriksen’s sale, and Zaniolo might be considered a luxury buy. Spurs need an upgrade at right back and if Toby leaves possibly reinforcements at center back as well.
But for now, with one signing complete and another player at Spurs for a medical, let’s just leave this as an intriguing possibility for later in the window and see if this leads anywhere.