Transfer Market: Three Positions Lazio Must Address This Summer

Saying that the 2019-2020 season was an unusual one is a huge understatement at this point. And yet we must admit that Lazio’s season was a particularly odd one.

If you had offered any Biancocelesti fan at the beginning of last season a return to the Champions League after 13 long years alongside a Supercup triumph and a double thumbing of Juventus in the same month, he would have accepted the deal in a heartbeat.

So after all of these remarkable achievements, why do the Lazio tifosi have this weird bittersweet taste in their mouths regarding this past season?

When the Italian league had to be abruptly suspended last March due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Lazio were just one point behind Juventus after an incredible run that saw them defeat the likes of Juve, Inter, and Napoli.

Lazio president Claudio Lotito pushed for the Serie A restart more than any other man, believing that 2019-2020 presented a golden opportunity to achieve the improbable and win the club’s first Scudetto since the year 2000.

While Lotito won his off-field battle and managed to relaunch calcio in June, his players couldn’t pick from where they left, as few injuries as well as physical exhaustion coupled with a lack of squad depth left young coach Simone Inzaghi with very few options as the team ended up drifting away from the Scudetto race and finished the season just outside of the podium in 4th position.

The work made by president Lotito and sporting director Igli Tare should be lauded as they resisted all offers to sell their biggest stars in the last couple of seasons, as the likes of Ciro Immobile, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, and Luis Alberto remain in the Eternal City, but they must work this summer to improve the general quality and quantity of a side which will play twice per week next season, a prospect that proved to be fatal for their title hopes between June and July.

So after bolstering the attack with the soon-to-be official signing of Fenerbahce’s Vedat Muriqi, which are the other playing positions that the management MUST improve in this calciomercato session?


The status quo:

Similar to the majority of Serie A sides, Simone Inzaghi has adopted a three-man defense. While the former Milan and Sassuolo man Francesco Acerbi has been the ever-present commander at the heart of the trio, the 23-year old Brazilian Luiz Felipe has cemented his place at his right thanks to some steady performances.

But the current issue lies on the left side of the defense. Stefan Radu has occupied this position for the most part of his 12-year service at the club, but at 33 years of age, the Romanian’s performances are slowly dipping, and none of the current crops of defenders has shown himself capable of becoming a starter for a side that’s ambitions include competing for the Scudetto and enjoying a decent Champion League run, as the likes of Denis Vavro, Bastos, and Luis Suarez’ fanboy Patric all failed to impress.

Our suggestions:

In recent weeks, many big-name defenders have been linked with Lazio. The list includes some veterans in the form of PSG captain Thiago Silva and Man City’s Nicolas Otamendi, but also young center-backs like Hellas Verona’s Marash Kumbulla and Frenchman Malang Sarr who is a free agent after leaving Nice. We also find on the list former Fiorentina defender Matija Nastasic who currently plays at Schalke 04.

All of the names mentioned above would add some much-needed quality for Lazio’s backline, but  Malang Sarr could just be the perfect option for several reasons. Being a left-footed center-back enables him to become the natural heir of Radu, and blessed with strength and speed, the 21-year old has shown enough promise to earn the interest of a host of European clubs, including Arsenal and Torino. Oh, and did we mention that he’s available for free?

Left Wing-Back

The status quo:

Lazio’s problems on the left side don’t end with the center-back role. While Manuel Lazzari’s arrival turned out to be a big hit for the right wing-back position as the former SPAL man had a direct hand in numerous Ciro Immobile goals last season, things weren’t as smooth on the opposite side of the pitch.

Senad Lulic has been a great servant for the Biancocelesti cause even since he arrived from Young Boys back in 2011. But just as it is the case with Radu, questions must be raised as for how long can the 34-year old beloved captain go on as a part of the ”main cast,” especially after suffering from an ankle injury that kept him out since February.

More worryingly for Lazio, the Bosnian’s backups seemed below-par in his absence. Spanish winger Jony provided only one assist in 24 league appearances and looked uncomfortable as a wing-back. Meanwhile, the third option Jordan Lukaku has had one foot outside of the capital for the last two years and his underwhelming stint at the club better end sooner rather than later for the benefit of all parties.

Our suggestions:

Former Lazio winger Felipe Anderson has been tipped for a return which would put an end for his not-so-exciting West Ham United spell. While most Laziali would be seduced by this prospect, one must note that Anderson’s ideal position is at the wing in a 4-3-3 formation, so a move back to the wing-back role could render the Brazilian’s second spell at the club much less electrifying than his first.

A cheaper and more suitable alternative would be the French Algerian Mohamed Fares, as the SPAL winger will be looking to follow the footsteps of Lazzari and become a vital part of Inzaghi’s plans. Despite coming for an injury-plagued season, the 24-year old former Hellas Verona youth product has been plying his trade in Italy for several years, and his steady performances have earned him the right to make an important step up in his career this summer.


Defensive Midfielder

The status quo:

Lazio’s midfield trio was arguably the best in the league last season. Luis Alberto has finally reached his peak and picked up his teammates with passes as only a Spanish playmaker can. Sergej Milinkovic-Savic recovered from an underwhelming 2018-19 season to remind the world why he is considered among the most complete midfielders in the game. Meanwhile, Lucas Leiva did the dirty work, allowing his more talented teammates to shine.

But when the 33-year old Brazilian was hit with a knee problem late in the season, the Aquile‘s lack of midfield depth has been completely exposed. Marco Parolo is losing his battle with father-time, and while Danilo Cataldi is a legitimate son of the club, he had only been used as an emergency stopgap.

Our suggestions:

Tare and co. are currently trying to sign another creative midfielder, and after putting the ugly David Silva row behind them, James Rodriguez is reportedly close to landing in the Italian capital ending his underwhelming stint at the Spanish Capital. Also former Inter players Xherdan Shaqiri and Rafinha have been linked with a return to Serie A through the Lazio door having found playing time hard to come by at Liverpool and Barcelona respectively.

While the arrival of a Big-name creative midfielder can only bolster Inzaghi’s squad, Lazio haven’t been linked with many defensive midfielders who can replace or at least cover for Lucas.

If we have to come up with our own suggestions at this point, Sassuolo’s Manuel Locatelli would be at the top of the list. The Milan youth product has only been getting better since joining Roberto De Zerbi’s side, acting as the linchpin of one of Italy’s most exciting teams and his future is surely with the Azzurri. Thus it is time for Lazio to stop seeking short term solutions in this position, and spend some cash on a profitable long term investment.

But if Tare wishes to continue the trend of signing veterans who are looking for one last important run in their careers, Manchester United’s Nemanja Matic could be the right man for the job as the Serbian would link up well with his compatriot Milinkovic-Savic.