Just as last season was drawing to a close, it was reported that Lazio were in talks to sign David Silva at the end of his Manchester City contract. At that time, there was a tangible sense of excitement among the Biancocelesti faithful: their team had just qualified for the Champions League for the first time in over a decade and now they were looking likely to sign one of the greatest midfielders the Premier League has ever had.
A little over a month later, that feeling of excitement has turned into frustration and scepticism that Lazio will be able to assemble a squad capable of simultaneously competing in Serie A and the Champions League next season. This was sparked by David Silva’s choice to join Real Sociedad over the Biancocelesti. His move had seemed imminent, but after a period of non-communication with Lazio, he decided to move back to his homeland.
It was a punch in the gut for Lazio fans, and this was compounded by the fact that talks with Borja Mayoral had also stalled. The Real Madrid striker had been heavily linked with a move to the Olimpico for a while, and negotiations between the two clubs had begun, but these soon came to a standstill and there is little sign that they will resume anytime soon.
These failed transfers - combined with the fact that Lazio have yet to make any notable signings - is what’s making Biancocelesti fans concerned. This is perfectly understandable, given owner Claudio Lotito’s reputation for being cheap on the transfer market, but there are signs that he’s loosening the purse strings a little bit.
Perhaps the clearest sign of this is the contract Lazio had reportedly offered Silva. They were prepared to hand the 34-year-old a three-year deal worth €4m a season including bonuses and threw in a personal driver and access to a private jet for good measure, something which would’ve seemed unthinkable this time last year. The fact Silva turned that down to take a shorter contract worth less at a club not in the Champions League does suggest a serious lack of Lazio appeal.
The reaction to the rejection was also not one of a big club. Lazio released a statement bitterly criticising Silva and stating they did not ‘respect the man’ for his behaviour, but the player insists he never made any promises. It’s not the first time the Aquile have found themselves left at the altar, so perhaps it’s time Igli Tare took a look at his own negotiating skills and asked why it keeps happening.
Another sign of Lotito’s increased ambition was the acquisition of Pepe Reina. At 37, he’s certainly past his best, but offers a wealth of Serie A, and - most importantly - Champions League experience. He probably won’t see much game time, but will be a seasoned and reassuring figure in the dressing room, and earns a decent salary considering he’ll spend most of the campaign warming the bench.
There have also been indications that Lotito is willing to spend more on transfer fees. Fenerbahçe striker Vedat Muriqi – with whom a deal for is reportedly getting closer despite his injury - will cost €18m, which would make him one of the most expensive signings in the Lotito era. Assuming it happens, of course. Lazio were also offering €16m plus a couple of players for Verona’s promising defender Marash Kumbulla, though he seems more likely to move to Inter.
One mustn’t forget, however, that Lotito hasn’t changed overnight. Lazio have reportedly agreed a contract with SPAL wing-back Mohamed Fares - a quality player who would fit perfectly into manager Simone Inzaghi’s system - but there is a disagreement between the two clubs regarding his fee. The Biancocelesti want to pay €6m (plus two players) while the Biancazzurri are asking for something between €10m and €11m. You would argue that he is worth that.
So while the Fares negotiations may indicate that Lotito is still penny-pinching where possible, their overall approach to the market has been positive. Spending more money is the bare minimum though, if they are to do well in the Champions League and simultaneously compete for a top-four finish. It would be difficult to foresee Lazio sustaining last season’s success if they continue being this frugal.
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