In July 2020, Lazio acquired Vedat Muriqi for nearly €20 million and he became the second most expensive signing under club president, Claudio Lotito. The last time Lazio made a substantial purchase was back in 2009 when they signed Mauro Zarate. Upon his arrival, Muriqi was highly regarded in the Super Lig and so Lazio had high expectations for the forward.
Muriqi arrived to serve as a backup or play alongside Ciro Immobile, Felipe Caicedo, or Joaquin Correa. Prior to his arrival, he came off an impressive season where he scored 17 goals in the Super Lig for Fenerbahce. In the previous season, Muriqi scored 15 goals with Caykur Rizespor. Aside from showing good form, it was expected that Lazio would get secondary scoring, in addition to Immobile.
Unfortunately, Muriqi never met expectations in his first season with Lazio. One person in particular who was not impressed with the big money signing was Lotito. The fans also became disappointed with Muriqi’s performance and most gave up on him quite quickly. He finished the year with one goal in Serie A and struggled to finish his chances on several occasions. He showed several weaknesses in his game as his ball control was poor, he was not physical enough and his finish needed improvement.
Although Muriqi showed poor form for long stretches last season, there were various contributing factors for this. First off was his arrival. He officially signed with Lazio on the 15th September 2020 but was unable to travel to Rome and join his squad, as five days later he tested positive for Covid-19. Muriqi’s arrival was delayed until the end of the month and eliminated any pre-season preparations.
Next was a muscle strain that occurred at the beginning of the season (which he picked up near the tail end of his time in Turkey). This meant that his first appearance for Lazio did not come until the 17th October 2020 versus Sampdoria. These circumstances affected Muriqi’s season as he did not have time to adapt to ex-manager Simone Inzaghi’s tactics, develop a good understanding of his teammates and settle into the city of Rome, which created barriers and made it more difficult for him.
Finally, although Inzaghi used Muriqi once he recovered from his injury, he was often selected off the bench. The forward did not have consistent playing time and this prevented Muriqi from gaining any rhythm and confidence in his game. Far too often he looked nervous or out of place on the pitch.
It was a disappointing season from the attacker, however, is it too quick to write him off? To bank on how many goals he will score, check out these Serie A betting odds.
This past summer, Inzaghi left Lazio to join Inter and has been replaced by Maurizio Sarri. With a new manager at the helm, this means a fresh start for Muriqi. Sarri prefers to play a 4-3-3, which could be better suited for the Kosovan.
Muriqi could be the ideal center-forward under Sarri. In recent seasons, he has shown the ability to score and is not scared to be physical in the box. More importantly, he is a tall and powerful forward who possesses great strength and can win aerial duels. With Lazio preferring a lone striker up front, he could expect more crosses from the wingers out wide, which could benefit him. In addition, Muriqi has shown to be effective with his back towards the goal, where he is able to receive the pass and advance the ball upfield quickly. Playing with three men up front could be better suited for him compared to playing alongside a second striker.
Sarri has already shown full support towards Muriqi this season. During a training session in pre-season, several Lazio fans were shouting out insulting comments towards the forward which prompted the manager to walk over and address them. Having the backing of his manager will boost his confidence. Most importantly, Muriqi had a full pre-season to train and adapt to Sarri’s tactics. This should help him understand what is expected from him and be mentally prepared. When Muriqi arrived at Lazio, he never had the chance to settle in and prepare, which contributed to his poor performances.
When Caicedo arrived at Lazio back in August 2017, his first season was a disappointment. He finished the season with six goals across all competitions and did not provide enough offense behind Immobile. However, the following three seasons, Caicedo adapted to the league and scored a combined 25 goals in Serie A. The same could be said about Muriqi, who needs time to adapt to a new league and gain a better understanding of Serie A.
While his first season was poor by his standards, he now has more experience and should know what to expect. However, Muriqi has seen little playing time to start the season; he has played 203 minutes and has appeared in nine matches across all competitions. While Muriqi played a key role in their 1-1 draw versus Torino (as he earned a penalty in the 90th minute which secured a point for the Biancocelesti), the forward has had very few opportunities to prove himself under Sarri, showing that there is still some work to be done, or that the manager does not trust in his abilities to thrive in his tactics.
It has been a modest start to the 2021/22 campaign for Muriqi, yet he could play a key role in the upcoming weeks, as Immobile is expected to be out for some time due to a calf injury. With Correa and Caicedo no longer at the club, the Kosovan should be the clear alternative, unless a false nine is deployed by Sarri, thus further signaling his eventual (and likely) departure.
In either situation, is it too early to write off Muriqi? With a new manager and a full pre-season under his belt, he should have had new life. But if he is not able to take full advantage of the opportunities that are given to him in the coming weeks, his life in Rome seems likely to come to an abrupt ending.