In the space of two years, Francesco Acerbi has gone from a fan favourite at Lazio to a complete pariah who’ll be pushed out in the summer. So where did it all go so wrong?
The Italian centre back joined the Biancocelesti in the summer of 2018 from Sassuolo in a deal worth around €12 million, and he quickly became a core feature in Simone Inzaghi’s team. Things were incredibly positive for the first two years, but that began to change once the COVID pandemic struck in 2020.
Here is the full timeline of Acerbi’s decline at Lazio (via La Lazio Siamo Noi):
After Serie A resumed following the COVID-enforced break, Lazio’s Scudetto dream quickly died and they fell off, leaving many frustrated with Inzaghi and his players. Another person in the limelight was new nutritionist Lader Fabbri, who had various disagreements with other members of staff at the club, related to his methods and diet plans.
His friend Acerbi decided to publicly defend the nutritionist on social media, accusing others of being jealous and backing Fabbri. This caused some tension in the Lazio environment.
Whilst on international break with Italy, Acerbi discussed a possible contract renewal with Lazio. His words angered fans, who felt like he was being unreasonable. Speaking to Rai sport, he said:
I’ve read things that aren’t true, both in terms of the amounts requested and those offered. Things are done in the appropriate places, not in the newspapers.
I think I’ve always shown respect to the club and I expect a minimum of respect from them, or at least that they talk about it in the appropriate forums.
I was annoyed and if this is the attitude they have and they will go on like this, maybe the renewal will no longer be in my mind
Acerbi signed a contract renewal with Lazio, tying him to the club until 2025. Things are looking positive again and he’s a relaxed member of Inzaghi’s squad, with the fans forgetting his previous missteps.
Lazio lost 4-1 to Bayern Munich at the Stadio Olimpico, ending their Champions League run. It was a fairly disappointing night and Acerbi analysed the match to the media after the final whistle. At the end of this media appearance, he blurted out: “Claudia, I love you! Forever!”
Whilst most understood this was a small moment between lovers, more than a few fans were angered by his light-hearted attitude after the defeat.
Lazio lost the Derby della Capitale to intercity rivals Roma 2-0. Acerbi was one of the worst players on the pitch that day, leading him to apologise after the match.
The Roman club finished the season in 6th place and Inzaghi quickly departed once the summer began.
Things did not start particularly well for the Italian centre back under Maurizio Sarri. The switch from a three to four-man defence created a number of difficulties and both Acerbi and Luiz Felipe failed to adapt quickly. The team struggled to keep clean sheets for the first half of the season as a result.
Lazio suffer a painful 3-0 defeat to Bologna and Acerbi is again in the limelight after being sent off for dissent, resulting in a two-game ban. He also made the middle finger gesture whilst walking off the pitch.
The former Sassuolo man again apologised on social media after the match but fans were beginning to tire of his behaviour at this point.
12th December 2021
The Roman club lost 2-1 to Sassuolo and for the umpteenth time Acerbi fails to impress, allowing Domenico Berardi to score the opener.
The travelling fans hoped the Italian centre back would join the squad in greeting them after the game, but he instead disappeared into the dressing room.
19th December 2021
The tipping point of Acerbi’s downfall at Lazio. Sarri’s side beat Genoa 3-1 and the Italian defender was on the score sheet. Notably, he did a ‘shhh’ gesture after scoring, hoping to silence his critics.
When discussing the celebration to DAZN after the game, he was not apologetic.
I couldn’t care less, it’s part of our job, what we do. Luckily people don’t know what goes on in the locker room, it’s only fair.
Being tenth in the table is never nice, we have difficulties, we try to solve them. We’re trying our best, or almost trying.
The fans immediately expressed their anger after the game, leading to him quickly apologising on social media, but this was not enough to calm the Biancocelesti faithful. Essentially, he was never forgiven after this moment by a significant portion of the fanbase.
22nd December 2021
Lazio beat Venezia 3-1 in a fairly confident fashion. Acerbi found the back of the net again, but he was mercilessly booed by the fans, who also chanted a number of songs aimed at him. He again refused to face them, disappearing into the tunnel after the final whistle.
The Lazio ultras then released a statement, calling him “a man without honour” and telling him to “leave Rome.”
24th December 2021
A banner is seen outside the Stadio Olimpico which reads “Acerbi go away.”
6th January 2022
Acerbi was booed by the Lazio fans at the Stadio Olimpico every time he touched the ball during a match against Empoli.
He suffered a serious hamstring injury in the game and was forced to the sidelines for almost two months. The fans were not sympathetic.
20th March 2022
Lazio slipped up and lost the Derby della Capitale 3-0. Acerbi was under the spotlight for a number of mistakes, such as failing to clear the ball in the penalty area in the lead up to a goal and failing to contain Tammy Abraham.
24th April 2022
Things were looking good at the Stadio Olimpico as Lazio faced off against Scudetto hopefuls Milan, but they suffered a last minute defeat at the hands of Sandro Tonali; both Adam Marusic and Acerbi made mistakes, allowing the Rossoneri to find the victory.
The Italian was seen laughing following Tonali’s goal and he almost came to blows with Marusic after the final whistle.