When Lazio signed Vedat Muriqi for a fee of €17.5 million from Fenerbahçe, it was a big statement from the club. It was a significant fee; the second-highest amount spent to sign a player under Lazio president, Claudio Lotito, to be exact.
Highly regarded by Biancocelesti Sporting Director Igli Tare, who had been following him for quite some time, the Kosovan international came off an impressive 2019/20 campaign with Fenerbahçe in the Turkish Süper Lig where he scored 19 goals in all competitions. He was known to be a physical player with the ability to win balls in the air; something that Lazio’s attacking department was missing.
Furthermore, Muriqi as a fourth striker added much-needed depth and reassurance for Simone Inzaghi, as Joaquin Correa and Felipe Caicedo had struggled to stay fit over the past two seasons.
Although there was plenty of hype surrounding his arrival, it has been an unpleasant start to Muriqi’s career in Rome. A combination of multiple injuries, testing positive for COVID-19, and not having the time to adapt to his new surroundings (due to arriving late in the transfer market) made 2020 a year to forget for the Kosovan.
He failed to show good form, couldn’t make a proper pass, and most importantly, struggled to link up with his teammates and find the back of the net. In Lazio’s match versus AC Milan in the Serie A right before the Christmas break, he failed to defend on a set piece in the final minutes that led to Milan winning 3-2. He came on in place of Correa who picked up an injury in the first half. Throughout the course of the match, he lacked intensity, fitness and could not perform the basic fundamentals of his game. He lost loose-ball challenges, struggled to keep hold of the ball, was dispossessed on numerous occasions and clearly lacked confidence.
While he was poor against Milan, the break came at the right time for Muriqi, who just needed time away to reset. The New Year has been a blessing for the striker, who has started to show his true potential with Lazio. He featured against AS Roma in the Rome Derby mid-January where he played seven minutes but contributed by winning challenges and providing momentum off the bench. More importantly, Inzaghi showed faith in the Kosovan.
In their following match against Parma in the Round of 16 of the Coppa Italia, the first of 2021, Muriqi put forth a strong 90 minutes for his side. He finished the match with an assist, as in the 90th minute, he won an aerial challenge in the box, which led to an own goal for Parma. It was unfortunate that he wasn’t credited with his first goal for Lazio, yet its importance was there, as the Biancocelesti won the match from his efforts.
He followed up with another strong performance against Sassuolo, despite coming off the bench for the last seven minutes of the match. He won challenges, didn’t concede possession and helped his side defend a one-goal lead. While he’s expected to score goals, he showed that he could help on the defensive side as well.
Muriqi then started for Lazio in the Quarter-Finals of the Coppa Italia versus Atalanta, where he scored one goal and was effective upfront. Despite losing the match, the forward finally got his first goal with Lazio and it was encouraging to see, as he was rewarded for his strong play performances in recent times.
In the second match against the Nerazzurri within a week, after coming off of the bench late in the game, he followed up with his second goal with Lazio and his first in Serie A. This clinched Lazio’s victory and allowed them to get their revenge.
While it was a slow start for Muriqi with Lazio, he is now showing his true potential. Many had written him off early, but he had just had a rough start.
From dealing with injuries and COVID-19, the striker had little time to build chemistry and cohesiveness with his teammates. All he needed was a goal to build some confidence and now he is showing what he’s capable of providing for Lazio.
While it’s still early days with Lazio for Muriqi, it’s nice to see that it is starting to turn around and that Lazio may have signed a player who does have the potential of making the team better.
Muriqi has started to show good form at the right time, and he will be heavily depended upon as Lazio compete for a top-four spot to secure Champions League football for next season.