At the start of the week, La Gazzetta dello Sport published its annual breakdown of each Serie A club’s wage bill for the season ahead.
Much of the reaction to the article has focused on Juventus’ massive financial advantage over the rest of Italy and the impact the summer mercato has had on Inter’s spending.
But there were plenty of intriguing sub-plots to be found behind the figures, not least at Lazio. For example…
On paper, a top-four finish would be an over-achievement…
This is by no means a secret, but the gulf in wage spend between Lazio and the teams they are expected to compete with for a top four place this season is significant.
Lazio’s total salary bill of €72 million net is the sixth-highest in the league. That is light-years behind Juventus on €294m, but also a big distance from Inter (€139m), Roma (€125m), Milan (€115m) and Napoli (€103m).
To put that in context, the gap to Torino (€54m), Fiorentina (€50m) and Cagliari (€44m) below the Aquile is smaller than the one separating them from the fifth-ranked Neapolitans.
Money isn’t everything, but those numbers do give an indication of the tools and budget Simone Inzaghi has been handed while simultaneously being told by the club that Champions League qualification is the benchmark.
…but we know by now that money doesn’t mean success
Is a top-four finish a reasonable expectation, then? The short answer is yes. There are plenty of reasons why, not least the fact that Atalanta, who have the 13th-highest wage budget in the league on €36m, managed to finish third last season and reach the Coppa Italia final.
There is also the obvious point to be made that a more expensively-assembled squad doesn’t necessarily equate to a more talented squad. Sergej Milinkovic-Savic earns the same amount annually as Fabio Borini – who would you rather have in your team?
The wage ranking has rarely been mirrored in league standings in recent years and if anything, Claudio Lotito and Igli Tare deserve credit for building a squad with the ability to compete for a Champions League spot while remaining far more economically prudent than their rivals.
The team comes first for top earners
Milinkovic-Savic, along with Ciro Immobile, is the club’s top earner on €2.5m net a season. That’s the same as the aforementioned Borini, not to mention the likes of Federico Fazio and Borja Valero, while Fiorentina and Cagliari’s top earners – Franck Ribery and Radja Nainggolan – earn significantly more. There are only five players in the entire Juventus squad who earn less than Lazio’s best-paid duo.
When it comes to coaches, Inzaghi is the joint-seventh highest earner, alongside Milan’s Marco Giampaolo, on €2m per year. The likes of Gian Piero Gasperini (€2.5m) and Sinisa Mihajlovic (€3m) earn more at Atalanta and Bologna respectively, despite the fact that Inzaghi has more than proven his credentials over the last three-and-a-bit years in charge.
Many of Lazio’s players, as well as their coach, would therefore stand to fill their pockets with bigger wads of cash if they angled for a move elsewhere.
But Inzaghi’s decision to commit his future to the club this summer, Milinkovic-Savic’s refusal to agitate for a sale at any point and the ease with which interest in the likes of Immobile, Luis Alberto and Joaquin Correa has been batted away over the last couple of transfer windows suggests one thing: they are all convinced that they’re in the right place regardless of wages.
The cost of deadwood piles up
Getting rid of players surplus to requirements has always been an issue for Lazio and this summer has been no different.
Riza Durmisi and Jordan Lukaku are currently fighting it out to be the third-choice left wing-back this season and both earn €1m each per season, the same amount as utility man Patric.
Fourth-choice goalkeeper Ivan Vargic, who has made three appearances in three years for the club, is on €0.9m. Joseph Minala, now back in the Primavera squad, is on €0.4m. Outcast Ricardo Kishna (remember him?) earns the same amount.
Although Patric served a useful purpose last season and Lukaku is finally returning to fitness after a nightmare period with injury, selling these players would’ve freed up €4.7m on the wage bill – more than enough to pay the salaries of three or four superior players.
Some players are due a pay rise
Although the likes of Milinkovic-Savic, Alberto and Immobile will know that their wage packets would be bigger elsewhere, they can at least sleep comfortably in the knowledge that they are among the best-paid players in the Lazio squad.
But the list of salaries highlights a couple that should arguably be handed improved deals sooner rather than later.
Goalkeeper Thomas Strakosha is on just €1.2m, less than the likes of squad players Valon Berisha and Felipe Caicedo, despite showing great progress as the club’s undisputed first-choice over the last three seasons.
Luiz Felipe is now an important first-team player who vies for a starting spot whenever he’s fit, yet he’s on just €0.8m per year, the fifth-lowest in the squad. Rewarding the development of two improving young players could be a smart move in the near future.
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