We forgot about Maurizio Sarri. And he is in Lazio, and this is both luck and risk for the club
You may remember Felipe Anderson . Five years ago, it seemed that he could turn into a European star, but in 2016 Lazio did not let him go to Manchester United (the player himself said that he did not understand why the deal fell through), and two years later he sold to West Ham for € 38 million. Anderson is now back in Rome. Lazio paid West Ham € 3 million. This story is all there is to know about Lazio President Claudio Lotito .
The man who saved Lazio from bankruptcy often makes extravagant statements. For example, that he did not refuse to sell Sergei Milinkovic-Savic for € 160 million – it is not known whether this is true, but the fact is that the Serb has sat out in the Roman club and risks not realizing his potential. He’d rather lose his best defender de Vrey for free than make concessions. The same Lotito is ready to promise Marcelo Bielse transfers in order to get his consent to lead the team, and then he can say that there was no promise. And to lose the principled Biels in three days.
Athletic director Igli Tare finds unknown players in underground leagues, and the club’s second specialization is high-profile footballers who have already been written off. For example, Ciro Immobile moved from Sevilla for € 9.5 million, and Lucas Leiva – for € 6 million from Liverpool. An even more striking example of such a transfer is Luis Alberto , a depressed Liverpool winger who considered retirement at 24 but became one of Lazio’s leaders. It cost € 4 million.
Simone Inzaghi helped to achieve constant transformations from the players . A coach who found some quality in everyone and brought it to the fore, masking everything else. Hence the strange style of play, clearly outdated, vertical and without pressure. But hence the three trophies that he won with Lazio in five years, as well as reaching the Champions League in the 2020/2021 season. This is an achievement for a team that has spent the same amount of money on newbies in the past five years as it has earned on sales. By the way, Lotito couldn’t agree on a new contract with Inzaghi for almost a year. And in an overheard telephone conversation, he reproached the coach for complaining about the squad, saying that “Lazio’s squad is worth 10 times more than other teams.”
Inzaghi left, leaving behind an odd lineup of difficult players that he took to the next level. But Lotito, instead of inviting a coach from the middle peasant club, suddenly made an agreement with Maurizio Sarri . A status coach who won the Europa League and Serie A – the fans are thrilled. And it really is, in a sense, good luck for the local team to find such a famous coach in the world. But there is also a risk.
Sarri’s football at Napoli was so romantic that it became essentially a symbol of romanticism in Serie A. style.
True, Napoli won nothing. Systemic football Sarri gave results at a distance, but failed in the competition right through. When meeting with other systemic teams (like Leipzig or Atalanta), or teams with a much higher class of players (like Real Madrid, Juventus), Napoli had nothing to oppose, and the desire to play on their own from a useful the foundations of the style turned into limiting dogmatism.
And one more nuance: “Napoli” added from season to season. 82 points, 84 points, 91 points. The latter result, by the way, is outstanding. And this is the rarest case when 90+ points were not enough to win the championship. But we are talking about something else: to take root, Sarri’s football, which is very dependent on automatic jerks and filling zones, takes time. Plus, five years later, this football is much better understood and meets with more resistance.
And most importantly, Sarri accepted a team that has been playing in the opposite style for five years in a row. Lazio from Inzaghi consistently occupied eighth-ninth positions in possession (only once moved up to fifth), and if we look at the details of possession and look at the statistics of short passes, the picture is even more unambiguous: not once in five years did the team rise above the seventh place. At the same time, Napoli Sarri had the most possession of the ball three times in a row in the league.
In total, at Lazio, Sarri will receive players of a lower level than in his last clubs (Juventus, Chelsea), and for years refused to play short games. Yes, and those who are still accustomed to a different scheme: under Inzaghi, the team played with three central defenders, and the laterals covered the entire edge, and Sarri plays with four defenders, with a couple of wingers attacking quite a bit. In general, everything is strictly the opposite.
It is clear that retraining the team to play in a new style is a solvable task. Especially now, when Sarri himself has already won a couple of big trophies and for Lazio players will be not just a provincial coach with ideas, but a successful brand. But it is also understandable that this task will take time. And then questions are already for President Lotito. It will depend on him how much pressure Sarri will be under and how much time he will have.
Lotito has been extinguishing the fans’ dislike for years by the fact that the club, despite its stinginess and scandalousness, achieves high sports results. He will either win the Italian Cup or beat Juventus in the Super Cup. These are important emotional moments. It will be difficult to compensate for their absence by playing attacking football. As well as anticipating progress through the season. The joy of his appointment can quickly pass against the background of the dull roll of the ball in matches with the closing teams.
Therefore, yes, for Lazio, Sarri’s appointment is indeed a success. But converting this into a beautiful story will take more than just Sarri and the players’ efforts. But also fans who will have to understand that beauty is in the process, not in the result. And Lotito himself, who will have to be Aurelio De Laurentiis . The Napoli owner also built a rigid hierarchy, but made sure that Sarri was happy with the selection of players and protected him from pressure. In the case of Lotito, this is difficult to predict.