The Italian capital and famous Stadio Olimpico are shared by two rival clubs with a burning hatred for one another – Roma and Lazio. Each respective outfit has its own crop of stars thriving at the heart of a race for UEFA Champions League qualification, including Serie A’s top hitman Ciro Immobile and midfield dynamo Radja Nainggolan. Yet, despite both being household names around Europe and without question key men in the Capitale this 2017-18 Serie A campaign, Spanish international Luis Alberto has been as influential as any single player on either side – yes, even more than Immobile.
Before settling into his current star role in Italy, Alberto‘s career started in Spain where he featured for his youth club Sevilla at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán and Barcelona’s B team before heading out to England to join Liverpool. In Merseyside, Alberto never quite found proper footing and opportunity, notching just 9 appearances during his tenure at Anfield. Despite still being owned by Liverpool, he would serve two seasonal loan spells back to back at Malaga and Deportivo, the latter of which placed him in a much better spotlight and gave proper exposure to his broad playmaking repertoire.
Over 29 appearances for Deportivo in the 2015-16 La Liga season, Alberto showed tremendous promise with offensive splits of 6 goals and 7 assists respectively. This production, for whatever reason, was not observed as adequate enough to have a significant role on Jürgen Klopp’s attack-intense Liverpool, thus resulting in a move abroad for starting minutes.
Arriving in Rome in the summer of 2016, Alberto was observed as an individual with untapped ability and talent, but who’s career has seen him trekking around Europe a bit in search of stability. At the time of making his estimated €4 million switch to the Italian peninsula, Alberto was an afterthought amongst Serie A aficionados and experts. Through his time in Spain, his quality was recognizable but perhaps not fully understood in terms of its influence on a side with European aspirations.
In year one at Lazio, Alberto featured just 10 times in all competitions, scoring just once and with two assists. The Eagles managed to qualify for the UEFA Europa League with a 5th place finish in 16-17, but lacked that next-level playmaker to assert himself at the heart of Simone Inzaghi’s emerging project.
Out of nowhere here in 2017-18, Alberto has been just that, and so much more for Lazio.
Slotting Alberto in behind Immobile, Inzaghi’s found the code to unlocking the 25-year old Spaniard’s true potential as a flex-playmaker, or trequartista, with a license to drop deep into the midfield to retrieve possession, advance play forward and run into pockets freely further up the pitch.
Whether it be floating around space in the final third searching for an opportunity to influence as the team’s main creative outlet, or playing up front as a second-striker, proof is in his offensive outputs that he has put it all together; 12 goals, 19 assists in 45 matches across all competitions.
Immobile’s been rightfully given the vast majority of attention for his seismic goal production this season; through 45 games, the Italian has bagged a whopping 41 goals that makes him the joint second-highest scorer in Europe with Mohamed Salah. However, it’s hard to argue that without Alberto playing alongside him, carrying the freight of playmaking duties and being a potent attacking force, Immobile likely would not have erupted in this way – and for that the Spanish international must be praised amongst Laziali.
As things stand currently in the Serie A table, Lazio sits fourth on 67 points, one slight notch above Inter for the final Champions League spot. The Biancocelesti, Italy’s highest-scoring side with 83 goals, have been carried to this point by their offensive outburst and will likely continue to do so until the end of the campaign. Lazio will keep looking Immobile’s way to lead the club to a top four finish, but it goes hand in hand with his partner in crime Alberto orchestrating around him.
The key piece of the European puzzle, Luis Alberto is now positioned to steal the spotlight for Lazio from his teammate and show the world how special an influencer he truly has become overnight in the Italian capital of Rome.
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