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REPORTS: Tottenham in active negotiations with Roma for Nicolo Zaniolo

“It’s been 84 years...”

AS Roma v Feyenoord - UEFA Europa Conference League Final 2021/22 Photo by Fabio Rossi/AS Roma via Getty Images

Here’s a rumor you’ve probably heard about by now. According to Santi Aouna from Foot Mercato, Tottenham Hotspur is currently in negotiations with Roma, their friendly opponent on Saturday in Haifa, Israel, for the transfer of attacking midfielder Nicolo Zaniolo.

OK, so first — I know this rumor has been in the wild now for what feels like ages, but there’s a reason why I haven’t written about it before now, and that’s because the majority of the rumors have originated in the slightly shady and definitely unreliable corners of the Italian football media ecosystem. And while Tottenham now have an Italian manager and Director of Football, meaning that we need to take Italian media more seriously than we used to, that doesn’t mean that we have to take everything in tuttomercatoweb as gospel. As a corroborating point to this, literally the only thing I’ve seen in the English media about Zaniolo and Tottenham was a throwaway line from The Athletic’s Charlie Eccleshare on a podcast that mentioned it as a possibility.

All that said, now we have the French media getting in on the action here and so there’s now a ton of smoke about this, to the point where we can’t really ignore it anymore. Zaniolo to Tottenham has been one of those zombie transfer rumors that we’ve known about for literally years — if you search the Carty Free archives, you’ll see rumors about a Zaniolo swap for Toby Alderweireld all the way back in 2019.

Tottenham have been rumored to be looking at dribbly creative midfielders, and Zaniolo certainly qualifies as one, along with Leciester’s James Maddison. Zaniolo’s had a bit of a rough go of it over the past couple of years, sustaining a couple of bad knee injuries including one that caused him to miss the majority of last season before being brought back into the Roma team by, of all people, Jose Mourinho. But with Roma signing Paulo Dybala, according to Foot Mercato that makes Zaniolo surplus to requirements, and Fabio Paratici and Antonio Conte are said to both like him a great deal. Zaniolo’s Roma contract expires in 2024, so this would be a pretty good time for Roma to sell him if they want to get anything close to a decent return.

I don’t know. He’s still pretty young (23), but the injuries to Zaniolo over the past couple of years scare me somewhat, and I’m really unsure whether signing a young Italian talent out of a Jose Mourinho side is a good or bad thing at this point... that era has left indelible scars on my psyche. However, there are also unsourced rumors floating out there that Spurs have Lyon’s Lucas Paquetá lined up in the event Zaniolo falls through, and frankly if we’re going after a dribbly creative midfielder I’d MUCH rather have Paquetá.

I’m still not sure how convinced I am that the Zaniolo rumors are a thing, and I’m also not sure how much I trust a young kind with a couple of surgically-reconstructed knees. But as always, I defer to my standard ethos of “If Conte wants him, who am I to argue.”