Lazio, needing to retool their defense next season, have set their sights on Milan centre-back Alessio Romagnoli. The 27-year-old has fallen out of favor with coach Stefano Pioli and is a quality option for the Biancocelesti.
As Luiz Felipe‘s contract expires in the summer and Francesco Acerbi is now 34, finding a younger, starting-calibre defender is the most pressing offseason task for Maurizio Sarri and the front office. Talented and experienced, the Milan captain is an ideal choice.
Romagnoli‘s addition to Lazio could result in two possible outcomes. If Luiz Felipe is re-signed (which currently seems unlikely), the Italian could either be a rotational piece alongside the aging Acerbi, or he could supplant his Italian cohort altogether. If the Brazilian walks at the conclusion of the season, Acerbi and Romagnoli are still a decent pairing, though Lazio’s centre-back depth would need further additions.
By far Romagnoli‘s best attribute is his one-on-one defending. Even against the most talented forwards, he makes intelligent, calculated challenges and is not afraid to make a clutch slide tackle in the box. Positionally, he remains tight on the backline, not venturing forward like his counterpart Fikayo Tomori.
As he demonstrated in the Coppa Italia against Lazio, Romagnoli is an excellent distributor of the ball. He typically looks to play the ball forward to the centre-midfielders, but he can also play longer, chipped passes to the wing-backs or over the top when needed. Another benefit of having the Italian in the lineup is his heading ability. Romagnoli is always a threat to score from set-pieces, and he wins a remarkable 71% of his aerial duels.
Over the last season and a half, Romagnoli’s form has plummeted. In Pioli‘s system, aggressive and reliable centre-backs are coveted, and Romagnoli’s inconsistency has seen him drop to the fourth-choice centre-back, behind Simon Kjaer, Tomori and Pierre Kalulu.
When Romagnoli is in good form, as he was for a vast majority of his 200+ matches with Milan, he is a strong, physical player. However, as his injuries mounted and his form faltered, the captain became indecisive and somewhat timid, occasionally making mind-boggling errors. In November against Sassuolo, for instance, he lost a one-on-one encounter with Gregoire Drefel and took him out, resulting in an immediate red card.
One other concern for the defender is his injury history. Over the last several seasons, he has missed an estimated 47 matches, mostly for small, recurring leg issues. If Lazio is left with just Acerbi and Romagnoli next season, their backline would be quite susceptible for this reason.
A move away from Milan should help the defender fix his mindset and revert back into the form that allowed him to briefly become a regular with the Italian national team. Signing Romagnoli would also be hugely beneficial for Lazio and go a long way to shore up the defense for the 2022/23 season.