With Lazio’s season drawing to a close, it’s time to take stock of the campaign and consider the future of coach Simone Inzaghi.
The 45-year-old Italian has still not signed a contract renewal yet with the Biancocelesti and president Claudio Lotito is already considering possible replacements, leaving Inzaghi’s future unclear for now.
Looking at the team’s performances, results and potential, it seems like a pertinent time to ask – Is it time for Lazio to move on from Simone Inzaghi?
Inzaghi has been in charge of Lazio since the summer of 2016, having been appointed caretaker manager for the final seven matches of the 2015/16 season.
Since then, the Italian coach has guided the club to a Coppa Italia, two Supercoppa Italiana and a return to the Champions League, leading the team to a Round of 16 exit against Bayern Munich this season.
And yet, as noted by Lazio fan Cathal Mullan on Twitter yesterday, the Biancocelesti have also struggled to make significant progress since his appointment.
Lazio will finish this season in 6th place. Looking at the five seasons under Inzaghi, the Biancocelesti’s average point haul would also see them finish in 6th. In fact, looking at the five seasons before the 45-year-old Italian coach’s arrival, the Roman club’s average finish would again be 6th.
This seems to suggest that, whilst Inzaghi has found some successes in the Italian capital, that the club have not significantly progressed in the last decade, even remembering last season’s title race.
President Claudio Lotito is not happy with the team’s position currently. He feels that his investments have not been properly utilized by Inzaghi, with the 45-year-old Italian coach struggling to get the most out of the non-starting 11 players.
There’s been no shortage of transfer flops in the last few years, with examples being Riza Durmisi, Jony and most recently Vedat Muriqi, and whilst this is partly sporting director Igli Tare’s fault, some of the blame also rests at the feet of Inzaghi.
Inzaghi’s contract expires with Lazio at the end of next month and he is already being linked with moves away from Rome, with Juventus and Premier League sides Tottenham and Leicester City all linked with the Italian coach.
Lotito is wary of this and has worked hard to find some possible replacements for the 45-year-old Italian, with some more realistic than others.
The first alternative identified by Lotito is former Juventus and AC Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri. The 53-year-old has been out of work since leaving the Bianconeri at the end of the 2018/19 season and now seems ready to return to management.
The former Sassuolo coach is one of the most decorated Italian coaches currently available, having won five consecutive league titles with Juventus and one with AC Milan, as well as four Coppa Italia titles.
The Biancocelesti president met with Allegri twice at the start of this month to sound out the possibility of the former Sassuolo man’s appointment.
Unfortunately for Lotito and Lazio fans, Allegri is the media’s favourite to replace Zinedine Zidane at Real Madrid, and so other alternatives need to be considered.
Another option for Lazio is Napoli coach Gennaro Gattuso. The 43-year-old Italian is set to leave the Partenopei at the end of this season after suffering a relationship breakdown with unpredictable president Aurelio De Laurentiis and could be a strong replacement for Inzaghi.
Napoli currently sit 3rd in the Serie A table and have secured Champions League qualification for next season; Gattuso also led them to a Coppa Italia trophy last campaign, beating the Bianconeri 4-2 on penalties after a goalless draw.
Gattuso’s Napoli has scored 85 goals in Serie A this season, the third most of the league, and have conceded 40 – Both are significantly better than Lazio’s 61 goals scored and 53 conceded.
The former AC Milan coach has also been linked with a move to Rocco Commisso’s Fiorentina, but he may be tempted by the more ambitious Lazio project, especially with the new stadium potentially on the horizon.
Lotito could also decide to take more of a risk, and sign outgoing Sassuolo coach Roberto De Zerbi. The 41-year-old Italian is set to leave the Neroverdi at the end of this season after three years in charge, having averaged 1.36 points per game in that time.
De Zerbi has shown promise in charge of the Emilian club and may be the spark needed to rejuvenate the team and start a new project, building off the foundations laid by Inzaghi.
The Italian coach has not won a topflight honour in his career yet but has clearly shown with his Sassuolo side that he has the potential to be a top coach.
De Zerbi has previously expressed his desire to coach abroad and has been linked with a move to Ukrainian giants Shakhtar Donetsk, meaning that it may be too early to see him in Rome just yet.
It’s impossible for any Lazio fan to not respect Simone Inzaghi. The Italian has helped the Biancocelesti become one of the top teams in Italy again and has driven the team to multiple trophies, a fact that surely makes the other team in Rome jealous.
And yet, Lazio have fallen short again. Another season where the Biancocelesti limp to the finish line, missing out on the Champions League due to poor results against smaller teams.
In the same way that all good things must come to an end, maybe it’s time to accept that Inzaghi’s cycle in Rome might have reached its final stage.