As the summer transfer window beckons, Simone Inzaghi will be hoping to once again ward off the waves of interest in some of Lazio’s key players. However, while it seems like some stars could be fated to eventually leave the Stadio Olimpico, others may be encouraged to prolong their stay if Inzaghi can use the Champions League as bait. Sergej Milinkovic-Savic resisted calls to move on before and he has more reason than ever now to abide by the Biancocelesti.
Ever since Inzaghi took charge of Lazio in 2016 after a successful stint as caretaker manager, The Eagles have seen a significant uplift in their performances, style of play, league position and chances of obtaining silverware. Although this has been positive news for the blue side of Rome, the natural side-effect has been that the club’s star players have been linked to numerous moves away.
Among the tactician’s greatest achievements has been getting the best out of Ciro Immobile, who has been seen as one of Italy’s greatest current talents on many occasions, but fell short of expectations when brought in to fill the gigantic boots of Robert Lewandowski at Borussia Dortmund in 2014. The move ended in disappointment, leading him to further turmoil at Sevilla, but Inzaghi saw signs of life in the striker when he returned to Torino, and he’s got the best out of Immobile since he signed for Lazio in 2016, netting 94 goals in 131 Serie A appearances.
Due to Immobile’s impeccable form, links to some of Europe’s biggest clubs have begun to emerge, with Liverpool, Chelsea, Everton and hometown club Napoli all reportedly interested in the striker. His current record sees him scoring at least a goal in each league appearance this season but, although Inzaghi would surely be reluctant to sell, the fact that the hitman recently turned 30 means that he isn’t necessarily the club’s most valuable asset.
That accolade would surely go to Serbian central midfielder Milinkovic-Savic, who has proven himself to be a perfect all-rounder, capable of defending and attacking in equal measure. Enjoying five years in Serie A and only recently turning 25, Milinkovic-Savic is one of Europe’s hottest properties, with Manchester United frequently linked to the midfielder, and Juventus openly showing interest in the player last summer. If it wasn’t for President Claudio Lotito playing hardball, he may already be playing under Maurizio Sarri or Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, but the admirable refusal showed the extent of Lazio’s ambition.
As with any great coach, Inzaghi has shown gradual progress each season since he took on the Lazio job. His first summer at the club saw the arrival of Immobile, as well as other players that have set an influential stamp on the team, such as former Liverpool flop Luis Alberto, who has been transformed into the most prolific assist man in Europe’s top five leagues this season.
Along with further signings, such as Joaquin Correa, these players bought into his long-term vision, and as all have seen improvements to their game and are currently part of a title race alongside usual Serie A winners Juventus, it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary for them to remain at the club into next season.
After finishing high enough to qualify for the Europa League, the Champions League was always going to be an inevitable next step. Lazio currently find themselves second in Serie A with a mere point standing between them and Juventus. Champions League qualification is the expected clause to keep key players at the club, but a challenge for the title certainly won’t hurt Inzaghi’s efforts to persuade these players for a longer tenure in Rome, and it’s encouraging that the club’s president won’t bow down to offers from Juventus or Manchester United, like many others might.