Former Lazio goalkeeper Thomas Strakosha looked back at his time in Rome and revealed that he received a lucrative offer from Roma before choosing the Biancocelesti.
The Albanian shot stopper joined Lazio in August 2012 from Greek side Panionios in a deal worth around €75,000. After six months in the youth team, Strakosha broke into the first team and grew into a reliable number one in Rome, becoming a nailed-on starter until the arrival of Pepe Reina.
After 10 years with Lazio, Strakosha left last summer after his contract expired, joining Premier League outfit Brentford on a free transfer. The 27-year-old plays a backup role in West London and has only made two appearances for the club in his first six months.
Speaking to Greek outlet Sport24 (via La Lazio Siamo Noi), Strakosha first reflected on his move to Rome and the difficulties that accompanied the change.
When I left for Italy, I was 16 and a half years old. My goal was to leave Greece and play abroad, because things were not going well. I certainly didn’t think it would happen so soon, but I think it was the most important thing in my career.
In other words, leaving so young helped me to mature, to learn to fend for myself in environments I didn’t know. Foreign country, foreign language, foreign mentality. Because of my age it was difficult, because it completely changes the plan you had until then.
I was thinking about how I was going to help my family not to have any more problems, neither financial nor psychological. So my goal was bigger than football itself and that motivated me and pushed me to go on and not think about failure.
He explained why he rejected an offer from Roma to join Lazio.
Besides Lazio there was also the possibility of joining Roma. But then I had a meeting with Lazio’s goalkeeping coach, Adalberto Grigioni, and I decided I only wanted to move there, even though, economically speaking, Roma was better for my family.
Grigioni always accompanied me and made me believe that with him by my side I could improve and get where I wanted to be. That’s why I didn’t choose based on financial criteria, but decided based on how I could become the goalkeeper I dreamed I’d become.
The Albanian goalkeeper remembered his debut with Lazio against Milan.
I’ll never forget my debut in the match against Milan. I didn’t have time to worry because I found out at the last minute. A journalist grabbed my father and said, ‘where are you going to watch the game since your son is playing?’ and my father replied, ‘what is my son doing?’
He called me to see if I know anything, he saw that I had no idea so he didn’t tell me anything. At one point, three to four hours before the game, the teammate I was sharing the room with said, ‘nice today huh? It’s your debut’.
I asked myself and said, ‘my debut? How does he know, and I don’t?’ And that’s when I started to put the pieces of the puzzle together, because actually the starting goalkeeper of the team (Marchetti, ed.) was injured and hadn’t done the morning training, but I hadn’t paid attention.
I was also third choice, so even if he hadn’t played I wouldn’t have come in, there was the second choice who was also in the Croatian national team (Vargic, ed.).
So, just before the game Inzaghi told us, ‘the second and third choices, be ready’, he hadn’t decided yet. Marchetti also sent me a message, ‘don’t worry at all, you will play, good luck’.
So, there was no time to stress. There was so much adrenalin and excitement. I thought my chance had come, now I couldn’t stress, I had to prove myself. Everything went well, I even came out MVP in the game.
He touched on his relationship with coach Simone Inzaghi.
Simone Inzaghi loved me a lot and he was the one who made me go from third choice to second and then to first. Inzaghi is a somewhat reactive coach at half-time and that’s why the whole team loved him.
He was the man who took the stress off the team. I mean, he knew when to joke, when to be serious, and that helped the club to go forward, to bring all these results, to get a trophy almost every year and to qualify for Europe.
And many young players like me, we made our debuts with him. In other words, he gave opportunities to players who are now established.
Finally, Strakosha opened up about his decision to leave Lazio last summer.
It was my dream to play in the Premier League and that’s why I didn’t accept the other offers I had in other leagues. I think it was the right age to come to England.
I literally turned everything else down just to come to the Premier League and I thought Brentford was the right club for me, after a decade at one club, to take a step not too big, to integrate, to settle down, because there are so many differences between the Premier League and Serie A.