‘Love is not without bitterness.’ 

So goes an Italian phrase, and there is little greater evidence of that than the tempestuous crossing of stars to befall the national team in recent years. 

Mattia Zaccagni made continental headlines on Monday night when he scored a sublime goal against Croatia to catapult Italy into the last 16 of Euro 2024

Until that 98th-minute goal the Lazio winger was little known beyond Italy’s borders but if they achieve success his moment of magic will be looked on as a key marker.

Yet his introduction into the Azzurri squad in 2022 had the potential to drive the team apart due to a ‘love triangle’ between him, fellow Italy star Nicolo Zaniolo, and his influencer wife.

Italy's new hero Mattia Zaccagni side-eyes the camera as he and wife Chiara Nasti smooch

Italy's new hero Mattia Zaccagni side-eyes the camera as he and wife Chiara Nasti smooch

Italy’s new hero Mattia Zaccagni side-eyes the camera as he and wife Chiara Nasti smooch 

After scoring a crucial goal for Italy on Monday, the Lazio winger has hit continental headlines

After scoring a crucial goal for Italy on Monday, the Lazio winger has hit continental headlines

After scoring a crucial goal for Italy on Monday, the Lazio winger has hit continental headlines 

But underlying their romance is a peculiar situation - Chiara Nasti used to date fellow Italy star Nicolo Zaniolo (pictured), and there are rumours she even went out with both at the same time

But underlying their romance is a peculiar situation - Chiara Nasti used to date fellow Italy star Nicolo Zaniolo (pictured), and there are rumours she even went out with both at the same time

But underlying their romance is a peculiar situation – Chiara Nasti used to date fellow Italy star Nicolo Zaniolo (pictured), and there are rumours she even went out with both at the same time 

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Zaccagni is married to Chiara Nasti, an Instagram model and former girlfriend of fellow Italian international Zaniolo, who was on loan at Aston Villa last season from Galatasaray. 

Zaniolo, the younger but more experienced international, was left out of Italy’s squad for the Euros and there have been rumours of tension between him and Zaccagni in the past. 

Nasti, who has two million followers on Instagram, split up from Zaniolo in April 2021 and began dating Zaccagni. 

The couple welcomed baby Thiago into the world in 2022 and got married in June last year. 

All serene, one would think, merely a crossover of partner in different periods of life. Right?

Not quite. This triumvirate of lovers increased attention in May 2022 when Roma fans – rival supporters to Zaccagni’s Lazio – serenaded their star with a chant claiming ‘Zaccagni’s son is Zaniolo’s’ after they won the Europa Conference League. 

The Italy international scored the winner in the final against Feyenoord as Roma claimed their first European trophy in six decades. 

Thousands of Giallorossi fans lined up the streets of Rome to welcome the team home and Zaniolo clearly seemed to enjoy the chant, with footage showing him laughing along with the derogatory lyrics.

Zaccagni scored in the 98th minute against Croatia to send Italy to the last 16 of Euro 2024

Zaccagni scored in the 98th minute against Croatia to send Italy to the last 16 of Euro 2024

Zaccagni scored in the 98th minute against Croatia to send Italy to the last 16 of Euro 2024 

Nasti dated Zaniolo (pictured), who has been left out of the Italy squad, before Zaccagni

Nasti dated Zaniolo (pictured), who has been left out of the Italy squad, before Zaccagni

Nasti dated Zaniolo (pictured), who has been left out of the Italy squad, before Zaccagni

When Zaniolo laughed along to a chant that Zaccagni's son with her was his, she claimed he has a 'shrimp' downstairs

When Zaniolo laughed along to a chant that Zaccagni's son with her was his, she claimed he has a 'shrimp' downstairs

When Zaniolo laughed along to a chant that Zaccagni’s son with her was his, she claimed he has a ‘shrimp’ downstairs

Nasti, unsurprisingly, did not appreciate the chants and was forced to turn off the comments on her social media profile. 

She also hit out at her former beau, who had had a kid in 2020. ‘With that shrimp, we don’t know how he has already had a child,; she wrote. ‘You are losers and you also suck.’ 

That comment about Zaniolo being in possession of a ‘shrimp’ – make what you will of that marine metaphor – landed her in hot water in a body-shaming scandal. 

You could say Nasti was being nasty.  

Internet sleuths were quick to grasp the meaning and within minutes Nasti took down the jobe, which was causing quite the stir.  

There were also rumours published in the Italian press that Nasti dared to date both footballers at the same time. 

Italy have soldiered on through any controversy and Zaniolo and Zaccagni are professional enough to put any differences aside – they shared a pitch during Azzurri’s 2-1 win over Ukraine in Euro 2024 qualifying last year. 

Zaniolo, 22, has since moved on and is now dating Italian model Sara Scaperrotta. 

Zaccagni and Nasti got married in June last year, around a year after welcoming baby Thiago into the world

Zaccagni and Nasti got married in June last year, around a year after welcoming baby Thiago into the world

Zaccagni and Nasti got married in June last year, around a year after welcoming baby Thiago into the world 

Roma fans once chanted that Zaniolo had fathered Thiago, but the official line is that he is the offspring of Zaccagni (pictured)

Roma fans once chanted that Zaniolo had fathered Thiago, but the official line is that he is the offspring of Zaccagni (pictured)

Roma fans once chanted that Zaniolo had fathered Thiago, but the official line is that he is the offspring of Zaccagni (pictured)

Nasti, Zaccagni, and Thiago often post snaps under the sizzling sun, pictured here on a compelling float

Nasti, Zaccagni, and Thiago often post snaps under the sizzling sun, pictured here on a compelling float

Nasti, Zaccagni, and Thiago often post snaps under the sizzling sun, pictured here on a compelling float 

Italy were on the verge of practically being knocked out of Euro 2024 until Zaccagni scored

Italy were on the verge of practically being knocked out of Euro 2024 until Zaccagni scored

Italy were on the verge of practically being knocked out of Euro 2024 until Zaccagni scored

He and Scaperrotta had a son, Tommaso, in 2020 before breaking up, but this year they have rekindled their romance. 

It would be reckless to deduce that Italy manager Luciano Spalletti refused to pick both players for his squad simply because of the tiffs between Zaniolo and Nasti. 

In truth, many Aston Villa fans would say that Zaniolo’s performances last season did not live up to expectations, as he scored just three goals and provided no assists across 40 appearances.

And so it is that he watches on as Zaccagni writes his story in front of Europe, propelling himself to heroic status and posting lovey-dovey pictures with a lady Zaniolo once held dear. 

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