The January transfer window has rarely been an exciting time of the season for Lazio fans during the Claudio Lotito era.
With the exception of a handful of notable figures – Antonio Candreva, Andre Dias, Stefan Radu – there have been few successful signings who joined the Biancocelesti midway through the season. This year was no different.
Sporting Director Igli Tare set his stall out from the off, stating at the beginning of the month that “there will be more players on the way out than coming in.”
The right side of midfield was identified as the part of the squad most needing reinforcement, despite the fact that the hapless Felipe Caicedo remains the only alternative to Ciro Immobile up front, while the bloated squad has long been in need of an overhaul.
The only signings both arrived on the final day of business. The signing of Tiago Casasola was confirmed, an Argentina youth international currently plying his trade in Serie B with Salernitana, another club owned by Lotito.
It remains unclear how much of a role the 23-year-old centre-back can really be expected to play in the first team, as he will remain in Salerno on loan until the end of the season.
Therefore, the only move that threatened to get any pulses racing was that of experienced midfielder Romulo, who joined on loan from Genoa until the end of the season with Lazio having the option to make the deal permanent in the summer.
The 31-year-old isn’t one for the future, nor is he likely to elevate the quality of Lazio’s squad to an extent that their Champions League hopes will receive a huge boost.
He is, however, a useful squad option who offers immense Serie A experience, having spent the last eight years representing Fiorentina, Hellas Verona, Juventus and Genoa, and important versatility as he can operate on the right side of defence or midfield as well as in a central midfield role.
Plus, with Lazio having the option to buy – not the obligation – there is seemingly nothing to lose from an Aquile perspective.
Heading for the exit
As promised, there were more outs than ins with a total of nine players leaving Lazio during January.
Brayan Perea’s uneventful four-and-a-half-year spell was finally brought to an overdue end when the Colombian striker’s contract was terminated, while youngsters far from first team consideration such as Lorenzo Filippini, Joseph Minala and Luca Germoni were sent on loan for the rest of the season to Cavese, Salernitana and Juve Stabia respectively.
Two young players who have been on the fringes of the senior team, striker Alessandro Rossi and winger Cristiano Lombardi, were both found temporary moves to Venezia in Serie B, Rossi until the summer and Lombardi for 18 months.
In one of the more bizarre moves of deadline day, it was confirmed that Mattia Sprocati’s move to Parma will become permanent this summer, just six months after signing for Lazio and despite him having featured for a grand total of 85 minutes in four appearances for the Crociati this season.
Talented midfielder Alessandro Murgia is a player who fans have held high hopes for since his last-gasp Supercoppa Italiana winner against Juventus at the start of the 2017/18 season, but the 22-year-old has struggled to find the game time he desperately needs at this stage of his career with the likes of Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, Marco Parolo, Valon Berisha and Luis Alberto ahead of him in the pecking order.
The Italy Under-21 international has joined SPAL on loan until the end of the season, with reports suggesting the move could be extended to include next season too, and it appears to be a good fit for the player, allowing him to gain top-flight experience with a team that should comfortably avoid relegation and that, under Leonardo Semplici, are encouraged to play an attractive style of football.
Finally, we come to Martin Caceres. When the Uruguayan was picked up by Lazio this time last year he looked to be a classic Igli Tare coup, adding top-level experience and outstanding versatility to Simone Inzaghi’s squad at a budget price. However, he’s never truly settled in Rome and his performances have been below-par. The surprise wasn’t so much that he left this month, but the destination: the 31-year-old joined Juventus for the third time in his career with the Old Lady in need of defensive reinforcements.
Odds and ends
One of the strangest events of Lazio’s January was Jordan Lukaku’s proposed move to Newcastle. A deal seemed set to go through with a week to go until the deadline when Lukaku landed in the north-east of England to complete a move. However, it collapsed at a late stage, with reports suggesting a combination of his poor physical condition and financial disagreements led to the plug being pulled and the Belgian heading back to Rome.
Davide Zappacosta of Chelsea was frequently linked with Lazio in the early weeks of the window, but any move was soon ruled out when the Premier League club made it clear that the transfer fee they required was significantly above what Lazio would be willing to pay for the former Torino man.
On deadline day, a move was sought for Dusan Basta, the veteran wing-back who has been frozen out of the Serie A squad this season in the final year of his contract. Talks with Bologna were ongoing, but the Serbian’s demands of an 18-month, rather than six-month, deal are believed to have taken negotiations to an impasse and now the 34-year-old will see out the remaining few months of his contract on the sidelines before departing as a free agent.
To a certain extent, Tare has achieved what he set out to do – the squad is certainly lighter now than it was at the start of the month, and some of the club’s talented young players who weren’t getting a look-in now have the chance to make an impression on loan.
However, it is the second part of Tare’s comments from the beginning of the month that are left ringing in the ears. “We want to achieve the objectives that are fundamental for the growth of the club, first of all Champions League qualification,” he said. “We’ve been getting close for years and hope this can be the right season to make it, perhaps without obstacles in our way.”
There are currently just seven points separating nine teams in the race for the Champions League. Several of them have made significant moves in January to help them achieve their objective of pushing on in the second half of the season, such as Milan landing Krzysztof Piatek, Fiorentina bringing in Luis Muriel and Sampdoria’s capture of Manolo Gabbiadini.
Simone Inzaghi, on the other hand, has been left to work with a smaller squad than he started with, Romulo being the only new addition he can count on for the run-in – and hardly one who will change games single-handedly.
Lazio’s Coppa Italia penalty shoot-out win over Inter on Thursday made them the only Italian team left competing in three competitions and Inzaghi will have to perform minor miracles to keep everyone fresh and capable of battling to the bitter end.
You can’t help but feel at the end of the January market that, if Tare truly sees the Champions League as a “fundamental objective” for the club, Lazio should’ve helped out Inzaghi by opening the chequebook to add more quality to a stretched squad. Only time will tell if they are made to pay for their stinginess.
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