Roma midfielder Nicolo Zaniolo spoke to UEFA.com ahead of this week’s Europa League clash against Borussia Mönchengladbach on Thursday. These are his words:
Who were your football idols and why?
My footballing idols have always been Kakà and Ronaldinho: I am inspired by Kakà as a way of playing and we play, more or less, the same position on the pitch. His qualities were immense. I enjoyed watching Ronaldinho play – sometimes I would watch a match just to see him.
Do you still remember the day of your debut at Roma?
I remember it very well. In the morning, the manager Di Francesco called me and asked me if I was ready to play in the game against Real Madrid: I was a bit incredulous but I told him that I was. I was still unaware, though, of what lay ahead of me. We had a team meeting at 11 am and the match was to begin at 21.00 – so I spent all day looking up at the ceiling. I even had to call my parents to ask for some comfort because I was very emotional. All I thought about was playing and enjoying myself. In the end, I was there because the manager saw something in me.
Important comparisons are being made on you. Totti recently stopped playing and you’ve been compared to him. What do you think about that?
In regards to Francesco, I think for any young player to be compared to him is a big emotion. But I have to say: I am Nicolo Zaniolo – I must continue to improve a lot. There is only one Totti, but I must continue on this path.
If one day Roma proposed to you to wear the number 10 shirt, would you accept?
No, I wouldn’t even think about it – I’d keep hold of mine. It’s a form of respect to the captain, I wouldn’t even try to say yes.
Roma hasn’t won for a long time: do you think this may be the right season?
Yes, I think it can be. It all depends on us, on how we approach matches and on how we train each day. Victories aren’t built in one day, but years. I think we have everything to have our say. It’s up to us.