Over the past few years, there’s been a growing sense of dissatisfaction among Lazio fans regarding owner Claudio Lotito’s transfer policy. Indeed, the entrepreneur has earned a reputation of being frugal in the transfer market, while he hasn’t hesitated to cash-in on the Biancocelsti’s most important players either.
And yet, none of Lazio’s stars from last season’s historic campaign appear to be heading for the exit door, while they have spent €20m – among the highest fees paid for a player during the Lotito era – on a striker who will probably only function as back-up to Ciro Immobile.
The striker in question is Vedat Muriqi, who arrives in Rome on the back of two prolific seasons in the Turkish Super Lig, with Çaykur Rizespor and Fenerbahçe respectively. On the surface, it seems like he’ll be a more effective vice-Immobile than Felipe Caicedo, with the 32-year-old never exactly a regular goalscorer for the Biancocelesti.
Muriqi will hopefully the first of two new acquisitions for Lazio this week, with SPAL’s Mohamed Fares close to completing his move to the club. Though an unpolished talent, Fares has experience of playing in Simone Inzaghi’s preferred 3-5-2 formation and has flourished at left-wing-back, a position that Lazio desperately needed filling.
Senad Lulic was Lazio’s first-choice left-wing-back, but at 34 his best days now seem to be behind him, especially taking into consideration that’s he’s been suffering with a long-term injury. In his absence, Jony has struggled to adapt to the role while Jordan Lukaku has proved too inconsistent and injury-prone to be relied upon.
In addition to Muriqi and Fares, Lazio have added strength in depth in the form of central midfielder Gonzalo Escalante and goalkeeeper Pepe Reina. Escalante arrived following the conclusion of his contract at Eibar, where he spent five years playing regular La Liga football. Meanwhile, ex-Liverpool and Napoli stopper Reina offers a wealth of Serie A and Champions League experience and is a more than capable back-up for Thomas Strakosha.
Despite all of these new arrivals, it still doesn’t seem like it’ll be enough for Lazio to simultaneously compete in Serie A and the Champions League next season. Inzaghi really needs another central defender to start alongside Luiz Felipe and Francesco Acerbi, with Stefan Radu getting older and Patric, Denis Vavro and Bastos not quite at the standards required for a top-four club. A back-up second striker will also be required, in the case of an injury to Joaquin Correa.
In short, while there have been clear upgrades on some players within the squad, there is still some work to be done before the transfer deadline in three weeks. Lazio’s dismal end to last season – after seeming invincible for so long – shows improvements are needed to sustain themselves as a top-four club. But Lotito seems to have adapted his transfer policy somewhat, and with that, there is optimism that he can make those additions and in the long-term, establish Lazio as regulars in the Champions League.