Can Lazio qualify for the top four next season?
Lazio have been installed as 3/1 outsiders in the battle to secure a top-four finish in Serie A next season. Simone Inzaghi’s men finished eighth in 2018/19, but they ended the season on a high note by beating Atalanta 2-0 to seize Coppa Italia. Now they will be keen to build on that triumph by earning a top-four finish, returning to the Champions League and bolstering their finances accordingly. Yet they face ferocious competition from a number of rivals and they will need a strong summer in the transfer market if they are to close the gap on the teams above them.
A look at the football odds at the highly rated BetOnline shows that defending champions Juventus are overwhelming favorites to finish in the top four, while Napoli are just 1/5 to pull it off. Inter are set to splash the cash this summer after recruiting Antonio Conte as a manager, and they are now 1/4 to secure a top-four finish. Then AC Milan are priced at evens, Roma are 13/8, Atalanta are 9/4 and Lazio are the 3/1 outsiders. That is a reflection on the team’s struggles in 2018/19, and it suggests they need significant investment.
However, fans could be in for a nervy summer as the vultures are circling the club’s two most prized assets. Star striker Ciro Immobile is attracting huge interest from China, and Dalian Yifang are reportedly planning to offer him €10 million a year to move there. That will cause consternation among the Lazio supporters. Yet he has mentioned his special bond with manager Inzaghi, and he will be pleased that the coach did not move to Juventus. Immobile has also repeatedly referred to Lazio as a family and moving to China would not be a great move for his development as a player, so the club stands a good chance of keeping hold of him.
Sergej Milinkovic-Savic might be harder to hang onto. The 24-year-old has been a mainstay in the team since 2015 and he is ready for a new challenge. There will be no shortage of clubs interested in the prodigiously talented midfielder, and PSG are said to be at the front of the queue. The oil-rich Parisians are desperate to improve their squad after flopping once again in the Champions League last season, and Milinkovic-Savic would add plenty of guile and flair to their midfield.
It seems like time for the club to cash in on the Serbian, and it will be important to reinvest that money wisely. Star trio Felipe Anderson, Keita Baldé and Lucas Biglia left the club for a combined sum of €87.5 million in the past two years, and the most expensive recruit in that time has been €15 million man Joaquin Correa. Lazio have padded out their squad with plenty of new players for relatively small fees, but they have not broken the bank to sign any superstars.
The initial gossip suggests more of the same this summer. Manuel Lazzari, Denis Vavro, Calum Chambers, and Jony Rodriguez have been linked, and they are all worth somewhere between €10 million and €15 million. That is all well and good, but Lazio will need to add some genuine star quality if they are to usurp the likes of Milan and Roma next season. It is encouraging to see the club linked with Mario Mandzukic, as he could be a revelation. He is possibly past his prime, but he remains an extremely effective attacker and there is no shame in being shifted out of Juventus to make way for Cristiano Ronaldo to seize a central berth.
It would also be good to see Lazio bid for some exciting midfielders to replace Milinkovic-Savic, should he leave. They could ask for Adrien Rabiot as part of any deal with PSG. Players like Bruno Fernandes, Ruben Dias, Hirving Lozano, Steven Bergwijn and Yannick Carasco are on the market this summer. Lazio should be targeting a couple of established stars that could significantly improve the starting 11, and they fit the bill.