Zaniolo taking notes from Kaka in quest to be the new Totti
Nicolo Zaniolo wants to fulfil the hopes Roma supporters have of him becoming the new Francesco Totti, even if his boyhood idol was former AC Milan star Kaka.
After scoring four goals in 27 Serie A appearances to help the Giallorossi finish sixth last season, Zaniolo has become an integral part of a squad with ambitions to break back into the top four this term.
The 20-year-old Italy international, who was playing for Virtus Entella in Serie B little over two years ago, is focused on staying grounded amid growing expectations on him at Stadio Olimpico.
"It's important to keep your feet on the ground at all times and I have a family behind me who do that, who understand football and who make sure I work my best at all times," Zaniolo told These Football Times.
"Beyond that, the only way to manage expectations is within myself. I can't listen to what others say, good or bad. I'm not Totti, but one day I hope to be as good.
"My hero undoubtedly was always Kaka, especially during his Milan years and for Brazil. I watched him a lot.
"For me, he was the perfect offensive midfielder: strong, technically perfect and capable of scoring and assisting. That is what I wanted to become as a kid and I still do now."
After impressing during his first season at Roma, Zaniolo signed a new five-year deal at the club amid reported interest in him from Tottenham and Bayern Munich.
The playmaker is competing with the likes of Justin Kluivert, Cengiz Under, Javier Pastore and Henrikh Mkhitaryan for a place in the line of three creative players that Roma coach Paulo Fonseca likes to play behind lone striker Edin Dzeko.
Zaniolo said the experience of playing alongside Daniele De Rossi last season helped to keep him humble as he rose to stardom.
"Daniele was always a leader and a fantastic person, so it's easy to learn from him and other experienced players," said Zaniolo. "In fact, if you can't, there's something wrong."