Roma star Nicolo Zaniolo will not play in his team’s clash at Serie A leaders Napoli after a bitter transfer row in which he turned down a move to Bournemouth, coach Jose Mourinho said on Saturday.
Italy international Zaniolo refused to be selected for last weekend’s win at Spezia but this time it is Mourinho and the club who have dumped the 23-year-old as Roma attempt to slow rivals Napoli’s march to a first league title in more than three decades.
Widespread reports in Italy say that Roma are furious with Zaniolo for refusing a 30-million-euro ($32.6 million) move to Bournemouth after talks between the capital club and AC Milan broke down in the week, not even meeting representatives of the Premier League club who travelled to Italy to strike a deal.
Mourinho had said after the Spezia win that he believed Zaniolo would still be at Champions League-chasing Roma after the winter transfer window closed.
“Unfortunately it looks like I was right,” he said on Saturday.
“I say unfortunately because for a month the player has been saying that he wants to go,” Mourinho told reporters.
“When a player says to the coach, club and teammates: ‘I don’t want to play for Roma, I don’t want to wear the Roma shirt, I don’t want to train with my teammates… I want happy players who allow other players to be happy.
“He is not available, he is not part of the project.”
Zaniolo had already been considered one of Italy’s brightest young talents when he burst onto the scene with Roma as a teenager, but his early career was severely harmed by serious injuries to both knees.
He fought back last season and under Mourinho was key to Roma’s Conference League triumph, scoring the winning goal in the final against Feyenoord to secure their first ever major European trophy.
But now he wants to go after a poor campaign in the Eternal City in which he has been overshadowed by Paulo Dybala as the clear star of Mourinho’s team.
Neither club nor player have any intention of extending a contract which expires in June next year, leaving Zaniolo potentially sidelined for months before a deal to leave in the summer can be arranged.
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