Simone Zaza is the forgotten man of Italian football. The former West Ham striker has been without a club since leaving Torino in August of 2022. But how can an established Italian international go from being one of the hottest properties in football; to being left in football’s proverbial scrap heap at 32 years old after two years without a club?
“The Torino Football Club announces that it has mutually terminated the sports performance contract with the footballer Simone Zaza. All of Torino greets Simone with good luck for the continuation of his career.”Torino announcing his release from his contract
How did Zaza get to this point?
Simone Zaza’s career could be summarised by its highs and lows. With extreme highs, and mockingly bad lows. There are two crucial moments in Zaza’s career that he will forever be known. While many non-Serie A fans would remember him for his painstakingly slow penalty miss against Germany in the European Championships, many Italians remember him for his wondergoal against Napoli which effectively won Juventus the Serie A scudetto.
In Zaza’s first season at Juventus, he struggled with the weight of expectations of playing for the Old Lady. In the season before his move to Juventus at Sassuolo, he managed to score 20 goals before Juventus signed him for a sum of around 18 million. Zaza though, wasn’t able to continue that goalscoring form and only managed to score 5 goals in 19 games.
While Zaza had struggled it was believed that he could become an important squad player for Juventus after that goal against Napoli. But, that summer his career came rapidly crashing down after he missed a penalty against Germany’s Italian national team. Zaza became a meme globally – not only in Italy – for the bizarre run-up that he took before taking his penalty. It is one of Football’s butterfly effects.
Who knows how his career would have gone if, after the goal that effectively won Juventus the Scudetto, he had brought Italy to the semi-finals of the European Championships instead of missing his penalty. Instead, that penalty ended up being the end of Italy’s campaign and the beginning of the end of Zaza’s career.
Dance away from Italy
Zaza moved to West Ham on the final day of the window for an initial €5m loan fee, with a permanent fee of €20m automatically triggered if he played a certain number of Premier League games. Zaza though failed to score in 11 appearances in England after his August arrival.
Simone was then sidelined through injury and then kept out of the side by Bilic so that West Ham did not have to activate a clause that would oblige them to purchase the loanee for the pre-agreed price.
“The penalty was a problem that has traumatised me a lot. After the European Championships I was really bad, this summer I lost so much weight. The videos weren’t the things that did me most harm. Now I laugh about the ‘Zaza dance’.”Zaza talking about the negative impact the penalty miss had on him
After an unsuccessful loan spell at West Ham, he moved to Valencia in Spain where he had an upturn in form with the La Liga side eventually making his loan spell permanent. Many fans called him their best player during his initial 6 months at the club due to his work-rate and pressing. Los Ches had been desperate to replace Roberto Soldado who had moved to Tottenham, and they’d believed they’d found their man in Zaza.
At Valencia, they loved him, and he was the player that sold the most jerseys with his name on the back in his final year at the club. Eventually, his time at the club came to an end, with Valencia agreeing to sell the striker back to Italy. He was sold on a loan deal with an obligation to buy for €14m. He decided to move back to Torino after he rejected Sampdoria.
At Torino, he had competition from Andrea Belotti, at the time, one of Italy’s best marksmen. In his first season at the club, he only managed to start 11 times in the Serie A. He wasn’t able to show his best form due to limited minutes and never managed to start more than 16 games in his first 4 seasons at the club. Torino offered him to Inter Milan and the deal was practically done in January 2020. Inter reached an agreement in principle with the Turin-based club over a loan with an option to buy Simone Zaza according to a report from Italian broadcaster Sport Mediaset, but the deal eventually collapsed.
In the 2021/2022 season, he was restricted to just 10 substitute appearances and 118 minutes in the league. His salary had become a hindrance at the club for the role that he was bestowed, and the club had been trying to sell him to several clubs since the start of the 2020/21 season. In August 2022, the club reached a mutual agreement to release the player from his contract.
What is Simone Zaza doing today?
Since the summer of 2022, Simone Zaza has been a free agent after being released by Torino. Over these two years, there has been very little news about him. The only news about the footballer’s life was made known through social media in January by his partner Angelica Erthal, a Brazilian model. She announced that she and the ex-West Ham striker were expecting a child and would become parents.
In addition to this news, Bari’s sporting director Ciro Polito announced his interest in bringing Zaza back to professional football in October but admitted it was unlikely.
“Among the available players I had only one name in mind and unfortunately there was no way to sign him. Yes it was about Simone Zaza, we also met…”
“There was no way to bring him to Bari, now let’s carry on like this and possibly intervene in January.”Ciro Polito, sporting director of the Bari on wanting to sign Zaza this January
Polito’s words revealed that there was an attempt, but nothing more and it seems like the decision was Simone Zaza’s. To date, the player remains a free agent and his intentions regarding his plans for the future are still unknown. Some believe he has decided to retire. It is also believed Filippo Inzaghi would like Zaza at Salernitana, which could be his last chance to play in Italy’s top flight. If he rejects it, we know where his career ends.
After so long out of the game, he is unlikely to get back to what he once was, and he may have fallen out of love with the game. In 2022, he only played 2 games and 16 minutes of football, 16 minutes which may be his last ever.
Most remember Simone Zaza as the player who failed at the Euros, but he was a very good footballer whose career could have been so much different had he decided to just take a penalty normally.