Why Have Lazio Been Targeting EFL Championship Players?

Maurizio Sarri’s Lazio finished second in the Italian top-flight last term and although they are nowhere near repeating that feat in 2023/24, they are still in contention for Champions League qualification, as well as the small matter of their last 16 Champions League tie against German giants, Bayern Munich.

With so many big games and challenges on the horizon for Le Aquile, why are Lazio shopping around in the second tier of English football? It all started with a £15m approach for Sunderland’s fleet-footed winger, Jack Clarke. They then moved on to make a bid for Norwich City’s goal-scoring attacking midfielder, Jonathan Rowe, who has enjoyed a breakthrough season so far in 2023/24.

After being knocked back in their move for Rowe too, Lazio then went due south-west to the Devon club, Plymouth Argyle. The Pilgrims’ director of football, Neil Dewsnip, confirmed the club rejected an approach from Lazio for their goal-scoring wide forward, Morgan Whittaker. The fact that Lazio were prepared to invest in Whittaker and encourage him to swap Home Park for the Stadio Olimpico is a real feather in the cap for the EFL Championship.

The Rising Reputation of the EFL Championship

It’s fair to say that the quality of football in the division has improved immeasurably in recent years. The EFL Championship is also the best-attended second-tier league in world football, with most teams attracting crowds which would suit most top-tier leagues across Europe and beyond. Even the leading online sportsbooks now list the Championship as one of their ‘top leagues’ for football betting online, alongside the Premier League, the Spanish La Liga and the German Bundesliga.

One of the main reasons why the standard of play in the EFL Championship is that much better is the level of coaching. It’s been taken up another level by a new wave of head coaches and managers entering the Championship. The likes of Kieran McKenna, Enzo Maresca, Carlos Corberan, Russell Martin and Liam Manning all preach a technical style of play that’s high-octane and full of running. Italy’s Serie A has been considered a slower, more technical league than the Premier League and indeed the EFL Championship. However, games in the English second tier are becoming far more tactical, often being decided by decision-making from the touchlines rather than on-field brilliance.

man playing soccer game on field

In the case of Maresca at Leicester City, it would appear certain sections of the Foxes’ fans believe their style has become too tactical. Some on the terraces of the King Power Stadium feel there is a lack of excitement in Maresca’s considered, possession-based approach to the game.

Other Top Talent in the EFL Championship

Aside from the three Championship players targeted already by Lazio, who else in England’s second tier could make the transition from the EFL to Serie A?

Ipswich Town’s marauding left back, Leif Davis, would be a great option. The former Leeds United defender has exceptional energy to get up and down the left flank and even better delivery. He’s in line to rack up the most assists in a Championship season from a defender this season.

Coventry City’s clever midfield playmaker, Callum O’Hare, has the swagger and flair to excel in Serie A. O’Hare is fully fit again after a lengthy injury lay-off and is also out of contract at the end of the 2023/24 season.

Norwich City’s Brazilian playmaker, Gabriel Sara, is another who has shone since making the move to Europe from Brazil. His passing range would be well-suited to Serie A football. It’s also a league where his lack of blistering pace wouldn’t be exposed.

Finally, Sunderland’s Jobe Bellingham – brother of Jude – is also someone who already looks capable of playing in the top flight of Europe’s best leagues. Aged just 18, he plays with a similar swagger and dynamism to his brother, who is pulling up trees with Real Madrid.

With so much technical talent flowing into the EFL Championship, Lazio may not be the last Serie A club to send their recruitment department this way.

Tags Bellingham Callum O’Hare Championship Clarke Davis EFL Championship Gabriel Sara Jack Clarke jobe bellingham Jonathan Rowe Lazio Leif Davis Morgan Whittaker O'Hare Rowe Sara Whittaker