Compared to recent years, Lazio have had quite the busy summer mercato: they have made five official signings so far. In timeline order: Real Betis’ Danish international left-back Riza Durmisi (€6.5 mill.); Salernitana’s Italian attacking midfielder Mattia Sprocati (€2.5 mill.); Ital-Belgian experienced keeper Silvio Proto (Free Transfer); RB Salzburg’s Kosovan International Valon Berisha (€7.5 mill.); and Sassuolo’s Italian center-half Francesco Acerbi (€10 mill). Today, in addition, rumours are that Lazio are on the verge of completing another two signings. If these reports are true, then Igli Tare and Claudio Lotito have had one of the most successful transfer markets in a very long time for the biancocelesti and it is all thanks to their intelligence in the end.
“Joaquin Correa from Sevilla FC is set to join for €16 mill. plus €3 mill. in bonuses (€19 mill. total) to replace recently departed Felipe Anderson: he is a 23-year-old attacking midfielder with experience in the Serie A TIM (Sampdoria in 2015/16); also national team experience with Argentina.”
“Milan Badelj is close to penning a 4-year-deal with Lazio after his contract expired with fiorentina this past summer. He is a 29-year-old Croatian international who made 1 appearance (scoring a goal) this past World Cup; in the Serie A TIM he has 134 appearances, all with La Viola.”
A key reason to this action of signing players this summer mercato is due to the terrific run of last season in the Serie A TIM and Europa League. The biancocelesti finished fifth in the league with the most goals scored (89 goals) and made it to the Europa League quarter-finals. Now, as good as this season may sound, it could have been a lot better – in fact, Champions League better. This is the second key reason for Lazio’s spending: this aspiration was ruined by mental lapses throughout the season and today I will touch upon the two biggest that Laziali will remember for quite some time.
Let’s start with the first mental lapse in the Europa League. Lazio were into the quarter finals against Austrian side RB Salzburg – a dark horse in the Europa League, especially at this stage with the other teams Lazio could have been paired up against (RB Leipzig, Marseille, Arsenal, CSKA Moscow, Atletico Madrid, Sporting CP). In the first leg at the Stadio Olimpico, Lazio won 4-2 thanks to goals from Felipe Anderson and Ciro Immobile in the latter part of the second half, after Minamino had levelled the match at 2-2 in the 71′. Laziali were overall comfortable and satisfied with the victory, believing that they had what it took to defeat the Austrian club away in the next leg. However, this is where the first and most surprising mental lapse occurred. Salzburg and Lazio were level through the first 45′ at a scoreline of 0-0, an evenly matched performance with chances for both sides. However, the floodgates opened as soon as the first strike from Immobile was scored in the 55′. This excitement of being up 3 goals on aggregate was short-lived as only a minute later Dabour put one past Thomas Strakosha off a deflection; 5 to 3 on aggregate for Lazio still. Enter mental lapse: the 70th minute mark hit and Lazio had lost concentration – within 4 minutes (starting at 72′) Lazio conceded 3 times – each goal passing Strakosha a further and stronger blow to Laziali’s hearts. Final Aggregate: Lazio 5 – RB Salzburg 6; Lazio had conceded 4 times in a game for the third time this season (other 2 matches were against Napoli).
The second mental lapse comes in no other than the most important match of the season – the last match of the season against Inter. Lazio went into this last clash unsure about Immobile or Luis Alberto’s condition after both picking up injuries in previous matches (the start of the match against Torino for Immobile in the fourth last match; the end of the first half against Atalanta for Luis Alberto in the third last match). Thankfully, Immobile got the nod from the doctors that he would be able to play (not at 100% however) but Luis Alberto was sidelined for the remainder of the season (only returned this past week on July 23). Lazio had 72 points going into the last match, while Inter had 69 – if Lazio were able to secure victory or draw with the Nerazzurri, then they would make Champions League. However, with a defeat, Inter would go through due to head-to-head matches (first leg was a draw). Lazio started the match well and this resulted in them going up 1-0 from an own goal off Ivan Perisic in the 9′ from an Adam Marusic strike. Inter equalized from a corner in the 30′, but it was cancelled by a Felipe Anderson low strike on a counter only 10 minutes later. Half Time: Lazio 2 – Inter 1. Lazio had the match under their belts: they would have to concede twice to lose out on this Champions League dream. Funny enough, that is all it would be – a dream – a quick blur, that passed in front of them as they failed to snatch at it. Stefan De Vrij unnecessarily slide tackled Mauro Icardi in the box in the 77′, giving a penalty to the Argentine who calmly slid it past Strakosha. Fine, OK, yes – De Vrij tried his best and the match was tied, still meaning Lazio would go through, but this just lead to more stress. Then late drama occurred: a minute later captain Senad Lulic went for a 50/50 ball but only his opponent was caught, resulting in his expulsion from the match. Stress levels were now extremely high for Laziali and what occurred next still haunts them to this day. Only 2 minutes after this moment off a corner, Matias Vecino scored a header. Inter fans roared; Lazio fans stood in shock, disbelief, and anger. With 10 men and players out of gas in the tank, the final whistle blew. Final Time: Lazio 2 – Inter 3. The second mental lapse that occurred again in a span of only 4 minutes.
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