Arch-rivals Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur are reportedly set to go head to head in pursuit of AS Roma sensation Nicolo Zaniolo.
As per a report from Italian publication Gazzetta dello Sport, as carried by Calciomercato, Arsenal have joined North London rivals Tottenham Hotspur in the race to sign Italian international Nicolo Zaniolo from Serie A outfit AS Roma.
Zaniolo came through the youth ranks at Fiorentina and had a brief spell at Inter Milan, before moving to AS Roma this past summer, as part of the deal that saw Radja Nainggolan move the other way. In his debut campaign with the capital club, the 20-year-old attacking midfielder managed to make quite a strong impression.
The 2018-19 season saw Zaniolo finish with a decent return of 6 goals and 2 assists from 36 matches across all competitions, making a name for himself as one of the most talented young footballers in the Serie A. The midfielder also earned a call-up to the Italy national team in March on the back of his performances, and has made 2 appearances till date.
Naturally, Zaniolo’s potential has seen him attract a number of admirers. There had been reports of interest from the likes of Manchester City and Real Madrid earlier this year, but those rumours died down very quickly. However, as per latest reports coming in for Italy, Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal have taken an interest in the 20-year-old.
Tottenham, after going 18 months without a signing, have brought in two players this summer in the form of Jack Clarke (loaned back to Leeds United) and record signing Tanguy Ndombele. However, amid uncertainties surrounding the future of star playmaker Christian Eriksen, the Lilywhites are on the lookout for a new attacking midfielder, with Zaniolo emerging as a target.
The Italian international can play in a number of positions in the final third of the pitch and has the ability to split open defences with precise through balls, while he can make driving runs at the opposition, making him a possible alternative for Eriksen at Tottenham.
However, Spurs will have to battle with local rivals Arsenal for the midfielder’s signing. The Gunners have been scouring the transfer market for new attacking additions this summer, with recent reports even claiming that they had launched a £72 million bid for Lille star Nicolas Pepe.
But, given the tight financial constraints that they are operating within this summer window, those reports do seem to be quite off the mark. And Zaniolo could be a younger and a much cheaper alternative for Arsenal to address their concerns in the final third of the pitch, ahead of the 2019-20 season.
Zaniolo is contracted with Roma till the summer of 2023 and as per the report, is not pressing for a departure this summer. However, the lure of playing in the Premier League and the bigger pay packet likely to be on offer could influence his chain of thoughts.
Along with Arsenal and Tottenham, there has been some degree of interest from Serie A champions Juventus as well. It will be interesting to see what the immediate future holds for Zaniolo, who clearly has bags of potential.