Friday January 26 2018
Lazio the savviest club in Serie A

Lazio are proof that austerity measures, smart transfer business and an inspired Coach can out-perform big-spending rivals, writes Emmet Gates.

To say Lazio are exceeding expectations would be an understatement. Following a comprehensive 3-0 victory over Udinese in the rescheduled game on Wednesday evening, the Aquile surged three points clear of Inter in third place. They’re in the Coppa Italia semi-finals and topped their Europa League group.

The impressive statistics don’t end there. Now that all the teams have played a full 21 rounds, the Biancocelesti are the league’s top scorers, with six more than Juventus. Ciro Immobile is the Capocannoniere on 20 goals. They have the fifth tightest defence in Serie A.

Simone Inzaghi has fashioned this hodgepodge group of players into a very good unit, and all on a shoestring budget.

This Lazio squad is a mixture of veterans seeking new challenges (Lucas Leiva, Luis Nani), players who needed a reboot (Ciro Immobile, Luis Alberto) and youngsters that the club took a punt on (Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, Thomas Strakosha).

Despite playing in three competitions, their squad, unlike Inter’s for example, doesn’t seem thin on the ground. No Immobile against Udinese? No problem, bring in Nani. Luis Alberto, having his breakout season, only on the bench? No problem, replace him with former golden boy Felipe Anderson.

Udinese hadn’t lost for seven games, including a 3-1 away win against Inter, yet were torn apart at the Olimpico. Lazio beat Juventus in the Italian curtain raiser, the Supercoppa, topped their Europa League group – comfortably - and face Milan in the semi-final of the Coppa Italia. Inzaghi is surely a candidate for this year’s Panchina d’Oro as Coach of the Year.

What makes their season all the more remarkable is how little they’ve spent, especially when in comparison to their city neighbours Roma.

Lazio have realistically been a selling club since the heady days of 2001, when the cracks began to appear in Sergio Cragnotti’s business empire. That summer saw Juan Sebastian Veron, Pavel Nedved and Marcelo Salas all depart the capital for grander clubs, and the trend has continued ever since.

As Lazio’s status shrank from its late ‘90s peak, so did the money it recklessly threw around. Claudio Lotito, who replaced the beleaguered Cragnotti as President in 2004, enforced a strict austerity model that exists to the present day, much to the chagrin of the Lazio fans.

Lotito has proven to be a canny operator over the years, mastering the art of buying low and selling high. Much of the credit must be shared with sporting director Igli Tare. The Albanian, speaker of six languages, has proved to be an equally good judge of talent in his first position as DS.

It was Tare’s relationship with Miroslav Klose, dating back to their days playing together in Kaiserslautern, which secured the German striker’s signature in 2011. Furthermore, Tare also stayed in Brazil for 10 days in 2013 to oversee the signing of Felipe Anderson, whom he felt had the potential to be a world-class player, and subsequently refused to send out on loan despite a number of requests.

Lucas Biglia, Stefan de Vrij and now the €100m-rated Milinkovic-Savic were all Tare recommendations.

In correlation to their wage bill, Lazio are vastly out-performing their Serie A rivals. They have the sixth biggest salary in the league, behind all the usual suspects. Roma, who spend some €30m more on wages per year, lie five points behind their cousins.

Sure, one can make the argument that they lost Mohamed Salah, Antonio Rudiger and Leandro Paredes in the summer, yet Lazio also sold Keita Balde Diao, Biglia and Wesley Hoedt. And while Roma reinvested some of that money, breaking their transfer record by signing Patrick Schick for €42m, Lazio’s biggest purchase was Adam Marusic, who cost €7m.

Whilst five points isn’t exactly out of sight, and Lazio can still easily be caught with 17 games left, it doesn’t negate the fact that the Biancocelesti are playing with such verve and confidence that the likelihood of them stumbling seems implausible.

When you take into account that Inter and Roma have both simultaneously run out of steam in the last six weeks, there’s a real belief now that third place is there for the taking.

Roma are now in talks with Chelsea over selling Edin Dzeko, and reports linking them to all manner of different players as a viable replacement, from Fiorentina’s Khouma Babacar to Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge, seem remarkably underwhelming.

Should the Dzeko deal cross the line, it wouldn’t do Roma’s fabled director of sport Monchi any harm to take a glance across town for some inspiration. 

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Have your say...
Even if Lazio are doing well presently, if they want to become real "contenders", they have to buy good players, not keep selling the ones they have got.
on the 28th January, 2018 at 12:55am
Mentegg, it's not just a one-season-wonder though. Inzaghi also did a very good job last season, despite having a relatively weaker squad. He has a very impressive win percentage of 61%. I think that we could be looking at Italian footballs next great coach.
on the 27th January, 2018 at 12:06pm
Well yeah............
It's nice to do well, so kudos to Lazio.
But how long before Inzaghi leaves for a bigger Club?
And what about a probable exit of M-Savic?
Plus the De Vrji problem?
on the 27th January, 2018 at 3:08am
Emmet is quickly becoming a standout writer on this website please continue to solicit work from him.
on the 26th January, 2018 at 10:59pm
For me it's all about Inzaghi. We're witnessing the start of the journey of a world class coach. After last season, he's confirming his quality this season. He seems to have the motivational skills of Conte but the tactical nous of Allegri. Then again, he's outfoxed Allegri more than once. Imagine what he could do with a world class team.
on the 26th January, 2018 at 10:15pm
Nice article. That Lazio has consistently done this, sell their best players but remain competitive is a very good blueprint for other Serie A teams.

Their scouting network continues to excel. Marusic seems to be yet another gem unearthed. They have also shown patience with players who suffer underwhelming first campaigns - see Felipe Anderson and Luis Alberto.

This patient approach is something lost in modern football. Hopefully they can hold the team together and finish the season strongly.
on the 26th January, 2018 at 7:46pm
Taking nothing away from Lazio, this season they're playing great but it's a one season wonder from them. Will they be able to replicate same results next season? Will they be able to hold onto their best players? Look at Leicester, they won the premier league which 99% thought it was impossible and then the following year were battling relegation. Every team always has that one year where all the pieces of the puzzle match up and have a great season but next year let's see if they can continue
on the 26th January, 2018 at 5:02pm
John C. Why do Roma finish higher than Lazio - two reasons. One - RIGORE PAA RIOMMA - they always get help. Secondly, just as in pretty much every league around the world, the more you spend the higher up the league you finish.

One more thing, this year marks 10 YEARS without a trophy for Rome's third team, unlike Lazio who have 4 during the same period.
on the 26th January, 2018 at 3:18pm
Lol, Lazio are in 3rd this season and suddenly they're a model? Lazio and Roma finishes in last 15 years in descending order: Lazio: 5th, 8th, 2nd, 9th, 7th, 4th, 5th, 12th, 10th, 12th, 3rd, 16th, 10th, 6th, and 4th. Roma: 2nd, 3rd, 3rd, 2nd, 6th, 7th, 6th, 2nd, 6th, 2nd, 2nd, 2nd, 8th, 2nd, 8th. Also, lets not forget Lazio's involvement in Calciopoli;-)
on the 26th January, 2018 at 2:33pm
Lazio deserved to be at least in 3rd place and realistically higher up the table if it wasn't for disgraceful VAR decisions, most notably against Riomma, Fiorentina and Torino that cost them a minimum of 7 points.

The only team that has outplayed Lazio for half a game was Napoli, and this was when Lazio lost 4 players to injury in the same match, 3 of which were defenders.

Lazio should easily finish in the top 3, and if not for Europa League and Coppa even higher.
on the 26th January, 2018 at 1:56pm
I agree with most of it and Lazio should be used as a good example and case study on how things are done properly in football.

I have to say that the one thing you mentioned partially but you didn't quite do just is Igli Tare. In fact I believe that the Albanian should be acknowledged as being the Chief Architect of this success. Please don't forget that Lazio has been doing this for a while even prior to Inzaghi who equally deserves credit for his part, however Igli is the key!
on the 26th January, 2018 at 12:05pm

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