Lazio’s Secret: Sometimes the best deals are those you don’t make

You can drive yourself crazy going down the rabbit holes of “what if?”. This obviously applies to your day to day life, but when it comes to sports we all too often look at this from the perspective of what if my team had signed player X or hired manager Y- think of Juventus choosing Poulsen over Xabi Alonso or Manchester United picking Moyes for life after Sir Alex Ferguson.

But this current Lazio team is the best demonstration that this also applies also to the players and manager who are leading them to success. In fact Sergej Milinkovic Savic who scored the game winner and manager Simone Inzaghi weren’t even supposed to be on this team.

Back in 2015, Milinkovic Savic was a promising midfielder at Genk who had acquired him the year before Vokvodina for less than a half a million euro. The Bosnian midfielder caught the attention of both Fiorentina and Lazio the following summer, Milinkovic Savic visited the biancocelesti’s facilities at Formello and fell in love with the city and the club.

However Fiorentina took the lead in the race and a few weeks later Milinkovic Savic travelled to the club’s headquarters in Tuscany to sign his contract, but this is where he got cold feet and decided to pull a U turn and sign with Lazio who closed the deal with Genk for around 10 million (the Belgian club had retained a percentage on the future sale which Lazio eventually was able to negotiate out of his contract by paying financial considerations upfront).

Once Milinkovic Savic fully broke out at Lazio during the 2017-18 season, it felt almost inevitable he would leave. Lazio had failed to qualify for the Champions League and the upcoming World Cup in Russia was set to be the perfect stage for the Serbian Sergeant to become a huge name on the market. Instead Serbia flamed out, Milinkovic Savic’s performances dropped after his first strong initial game and there were no suitors willing to pay Lazio’s president Lotito’s asking price of 100 million euro.

When the following season Milinkovic Savic failed to play to his previous standards, many wondered if Lazio had asked for way too much for a one season wonder and assumed they would eventually regret the decision. Lazio failed to qualify for the Champions League on the last game of the season and it felt inevitable that Milinkovic Savic would be sold but for far less than the expected 100 million euro return.

In the meantime Lazio gave Milinkovic Savic an extension making him one of the highest paid players on the team, but that didn’t stop clubs like Juventus, Inter, Manchester United and Real Madrid from pursuing him. The bianconeri even agreed to personal terms with Milinkovic Savic, but eventually decided to shoot their load transfer fee wise on Mathijs De Ligt and go with two Bosman signings, Ramsey and Rabiot, to boost their midfield.

This current season has seen a return to form for Milinkovic Savic, who isn’t as flashy now that he plays a more defensive role in Inzaghi;s midfield but has certainly shown an ability to come through in big moments. His poor showing in the last World Cup had helped fuel the story line that Milinkovic Savic crumbled on the biggest stages against top opponents, but this season he has scored the goal that gave Lazio the lead against Juventus last December and the game winner against Inter on Sunday.

Just like Milinkovic Savic, the biancocelesti’s current coach Simone Inzaghi wasn’t supposed to be at the Olimpico on Sunday night. While Pippo’s brother has strong ties to Lazio dating back to his two spells at the club as a player, when he was hired as the first team’s coach back in April of 2016 it was only supposed to be on an interim basis.

Inzaghi was managing Lazio’s Primavera team when Stefano Pioli was sacked before the final stretch of the season. While he achieved very good results by accruing twelve points in the final seven matches of the campaign, Lotito wanted to make a statement signing to keep up with Roma and give his team a jolt.

Lotito was able to convince Marcelo Bielsa to take his flamboyant style to Italy’s capital, everything was set and Lazio even announced his signing and the time for his introductory press conference, Simone Inzaghi was going to continue building his resume at Lotito’s other club Salernitana in Serie B- but then Bielsa bailed and Lazio were found without a manager.    

Lotito quickly decided to give Inzaghi the main job at Lazio where he developed the likes of Milinkovic Savic and Luis Alberto. Last summer there was buzz that Rino Gattuso could be Lazio’s new manager because Inzaghi had become a target for both Juventus and Milan- a rumor that made the fanbases of those clubs about as excited as Star Wars superfans seeing Jar Jar Binks show up at Comic Con.

Juventus had shown interest in Simone Inzaghi because of the similarities of his formation and style with Max Allegri and because of his close relationship with the bianconeri’s sporting director Fabio Paratici, while Milan were looking to hire both sporting director Tare and Inzaghi to relaunch the club- instead Juventus hired Sarri while Milan went for Maldini/Boban/Massara and Giampaolo.

Lazio’s triumph on Sunday against Inter is a reminder that sometimes the best deals are the ones you don’t make or that a decision that was made a few years ago can still pay huge dividends today- it’s not always about the next big acquisition.

Is Milinkovic Savic’s time at Lazio coming to an end?

Let’s get it out of the way up front. No doubt the 2018-19 season was a disappointment for Sergej Milinkovic Savic and this was after a subpar World Cup where many expected him to fully break out on the biggest stage in world football. But despite not living up to expectations, the Serbian international still won the official league award given to the best midfielder in Serie A.

With his current club Lazio failing to qualify for the next edition of the Champions League there has been a lot of buzz on Milinkovic Savic leaving Italy’s capital this summer. Juventus reached an agreement with him on personal terms about a month ago, Paris St Germain have been monitoring him for over a year and now we have Manchester United identifying him as the ideal replacement for Paul Pogba.

Last summer Lazio’s president Claudio Lotito was able to convince Milinkovic Savic to stay for one season by promising him he would sell him in summer of 2019 for a big offer. Lotito confirmed this publicly when recently stated that he was running out of tools to keep his star, a sentiment confirmed on Saturday by manager Simone Inzaghi when he answered “I would like for him to stay, but I think the club should consider a significant offer should it arrive. Should he be sold, we know we’ll have to replace him” 

While last summer Milinkovic Savic had no problem answering that he was staying at the club when he arrived at the retreat, this year he has been much more vague. At this point, it feels very likely that he won’t stay in Italy to defend his title of Serie A’s best offer. Lazio are looking for an offer of at least 80 million euro to sell their star, while he’s come off an uneven season, he has over 100 games played in Serie A despite the fact he’s just entering his prime after turning 24 last February. 

Certainly Lazio must feel pressure after Lotitio’s promise last summer, but they are in a great position to handle his potential departure from a position of strength. They have no substantial debts, Financial Fair Play parameters to meet and are in overall strong financial shape, especially for an Italian club. Their president Claudio Lotito has mastered the art of selling, he received over 70 million combined for Hernanes, Antonio Candreva and Lucas Biglia who were all past their prime and with expiring contracts, so he will no doubt look for a huge return for his biggest asset.

On the bright side for Laziali, the club’s sporting director Igli Tare’ has replaced his departing stars quite well- Lucas Leiva has been an upgrade over Biglia, Luis Alberto has exceeded Felipe Anderson’s production while Acerbi has slotted in perfectly in De Vrij’s previous role. With a robust return for Milinkovic Savic, Lazio can more than adequately replace him after already improving the squad with Vavro and Lazzari’s arrivals. But where could Milinkovic Savic?

While Juventus identified him as the ideal addition to their midfield last June, their approach to transfers- go through the player’s agent first, get an agreement with them first and then try to force their target’s current club to sell- was never going to fly with Lotito, who was more than happy to state this publicly. Juventus decided to go after Adrien Rabiot, to go with Aaron Ramsey whom they had already signed on another Bosman deal and shoot their financial load on Matthijs De Ligt instead.

Sergej Milinkovic-Savic

While there have been some whispers of Inter potentially pursuing Milinkovic Savic, his future will almost certainly take place abroad. Paris St Germain’s sporting director Leonardo, pursued him last summer when he was at Milan- but now he has the bank roll to tempt Lotito without Lazio’s president having to also worry about massively improving a direct rival in the race for a Champions League spot.

Manchester United are certainly in the mix, but as I write this, there are no confirmations they are in concrete talks quite yet to get a deal done with Lazio. But with the window in the Premier League closing in less than two weeks, we could have some developments very soon.


Assessing the Midfielder Market in Serie A

Imago 20190331

After previously reviewing the market for goal keepers and defenders in Serie A, let’s now focus on the midfielders. First let’s take stock of the situation at the position for the top Italian clubs


Juventus- on the bright side Bentancur gained experience, Emre Can vastly improved in the second half while Ramsey will bring attributes the team has lacked since prime Marchisio. On the flip side, Khedira was given a rich extension, Pjanic could be sold and it’s unlikely Matuidi can be a starter for a Champions League contender at this stage of his career.

Napoli- Fabian Ruiz joins the list of impressive midfielders- Jorginho, Allan, Zielinski, Diawara- acquired by the club in recent years, but the partenopei have lacked depth since Hamsik’s departure. There could be some fairly significant changes in the midfield this summer…

Inter- Nainggolan didn’t live up to expectations, Borja Valero is set to retire, Joao Mario had a spark when he started the season and now he’s just garbage and Gagliardini is ideally your first midfielder off the bench. The fact that Brozovic may have become the club’s most important player probably highlights fact club needs to work on their midfield. 

Atalanta- while Ilicic, Zapata and Papu Gomez get all the accolades, Freuler and De Roon are the unsung heroes of Gasperini’s team. The team however lacks depth especially since Pasalic only joined the Bergamaschi on loan.

Milan- compared to a few weeks ago, it appears less likely that Milan will redeem Bakayoko’s rights. Kessie’ has attracted interest from the Premier League and Luca Biglia could return to Argentina . Bertolacci and Montolivo will both leave the club once their contracts expire at end of June.

Roma- with Daniele De Rossi’s departure we now have a full turn over of the giallorossi’s midfield. On the bright side Cristante, Zaniolo and Pellegrini constitute and intriguing trio while N’Zonzi improved once Ranieri replaced Di Francesco 

Lazio- Parolo and Lucas Leiva are now 32 and 35 respectively, Badelj and Berisha struggled in their season at the club and describing Milinkovic Savic as inconsistent would be generous. Lotito will likely make some significant changes to this unit during the summer.


Which current Serie A midfielders can we expect in the transfer news headlines

 Lazio v Napoli - Serie A - Stadio Olimpico del Nuoto

Allan- while the Brazilian midfielder kissed the badge after scoring a goal recently, he struggled for a few months after his transfer to Paris St Germain collapsed in January. Allan performed well in the Champions League last fall and has arguably been the best box to box midfielder in Serie A since prime Vidal, so it’s not surprising to see his valuation in 70 to 80 million, considering Napoli’s track record of finding excellent midfielders, they’d much rather sell him than Koulibaly. 

Sergej Milinkovic Savic- following an uneven World Cup which was the perfect platform to seal his value in the 100 million range after a brilliant Serie A campaign last season, the Lazio midfielder struggled significantly in the first half of the 2018/19 campaign. SMS returned to his usual self with the new year and scored Lazio’s first goal in the Coppa Italia. While he did improve over the course of the season, it’s unlikely a club would be willing to come close to making an offer in the triple digits. Considering that Lazio are in  solid financial shape, have an aging midfielder around him, Lazio may decide to hold on to Milinkovic Savic for another year since he’s still only 24.

Steven NZonzi- the World Cup champion was dreadful for most of the season and was towards the top of the list of busts acquired during the ill fated Monchi era. NZonzi did perform better under Ranieri and with De Rossi abruptly leaving the club he could end up being an important piece for next season, also because it maybe hard to find a club willing to pay his exorbitant remaining amortized value for a player his age.


Nicolo’ Zaniolo- while NZonzi’s high remaining amortized value makes him hard to move, the fact that Roma could have a massive plusvalenza on their uber talent because they acquired him for such a low price (around 6 million) gives him a lot of leverage when negotiating a contract extension with the club. Odds are Zaniolo will sign his new deal and stay at least one more year in Italy’s capital.

Miralem Pjanic- speaking of potential profits, the Bosnian midfielder could net a huge one since Juve has had a few season to amortize his already under market value transfer fee. Pjanic did receive an extension last year, but in a recent interview in France did leave the door open on a departure from Turin this summer. 

Nicolo’ Barella- the 22 year old had a break out season at Cagliari and established himself as a starter on the Italian national team. Barella was heavily linked to both Chelsea and Napoli in January but could end up at Inter in the summer where he would be a great fit in the Vidal role should Conte (as expected) become the nerazzurri’s manager.


Stefano Sensi- Sassulo’s playmaker has been the extension of manager De Zerbi on the pitch and could be a good fit as Biglia’s replacement at Milan. While Sensi has also been linked to other teams, the rossoneri could include Sassuolo’s forced option to buy for Locatelli in the deal which would also help them with their FFP restrictions.


Dennis Praet- while the Belgian international may not be the sexiest name in this column, he was also the pick of the litter at Sampdoria for Juventus sporting director Paratici over the highly rated Torreira. Praet is now 25 and has multiple seasons as a starter in Serie A under his belt- he could be a good fit at both Milan based clubs or follow the path of his former teammates Bruno Fernandes and Torreira and head abroad. 


Amadou Diawara- the adage that the former Bologna midfielder deserves more playing time made a lot more sense when Sarri was his coach since his successor Ancelotti hasn’t been afraid to rotate a lot and give playing time to the hot hand. But even after Hamsik’s departure, Diawara struggled to play frequently and when he did very rarely stood out. Might be better for all involved if Diawara leaves in the summer, but don’t expect Napoli to sell at a cheap price either.

Losers of Serie A’s First Stretch of the Season



The first stretch of the Serie A season gave us a flawless start from Juventus, a late resurgence from Inter and surprising performances from Sampdoria and Sassuolo. But for every action there’s a reaction, and while there have been plenty of positive story lines and winners in Italy in the first eight matches, as we covered last week, there have also been teams and players not meeting expectations- here are the losers of the season so far





Going into the season, the Bergamaschi were probably everyone’s second favorite team. What is there not to like? A club that isn’t afraid to launch young players, most of them Italian, a manager known for often playing offensive minded football while also showing significant tactical acumen against Italy’s top coaches and a star player in Papu Gomez who is very relatable and exciting to watch.

But this season Atalanta have not been themselves. The team started their summer preparation early to get ready for the Europa League preliminary round, but their immediate elimination has given the squad a hangover reminiscent of what happened to Pioli’s Lazio and Benitez’ Napoli after being eliminated in preliminary round of the Champions League.

While Atalanta boosts a very deep and impressive attack (Zapata, Ilicic, Gomez and talented striker Barrow), years of selling off prospects may have caught up to them- Gasperini’s squad looks rather weak on defense and on the wings after parting ways with Conti, Spinazzola and Caldara the past two summers. 

Andrea Belotti


Everything was pointing to a fast start for the striker known as Il Gallo. He was finally healthy after battline nagging injuries last season, manager Walter Mazzarri had made him the focal point of his first summer retreat as the granata’s manager and Torino spent significantly in the summer to make a run for the Europa League.

But while Belotti must have been thrilled to hear that Roberto Soriano was returning to Serie A to join him and that Iago Falque was staying despite offers from Spain, the late arrival of Simone Zaza had the potential to change the major tenants of Torino’s attack. But because the former Juventus striker needed time to adapt to his new team, Belotti didn’s make the most the opportunity to take the bull by its horns- he’s off to a sluggish start with only two goals scored.



Sergej Milinkovic Savic


There are already many who believe the Serbian international has taken the crown from Belotti as the poster boy for the saying “better to sell a player a year too soon than a year too late”, and while Lazio and Torino approached the market for their young stars in very different ways, there’s no doubt Milinkovic Savic’s stock has taken a substantial hit.

After a stellar Serie A season in which he scored 12 goals, SMS had a disappointing World Cup where many were left wondering what the hype was all about. Those performances were defensible considering he had barely played with his Serbian teammates prior to the tournament in Russia, but his disastrous start to the season in Italy has been far more concerning- is Milinkovic Savic getting full of himself? Or is he disappointed he wasn’t sold to a bigger club? Simone Inzaghi is going to need to find out very soon 


Mattia Caldara & Alex Meret


I know what you are thinking- calling them losers of the season so far is very unfair considering their injuries. But while they rehabbed to get back to the pitch their situations are starting to change. For one Mateo Musacchio has made the most out of Caldara’s absence, and is establishing himself as a solid partner for Alessio Romagnoli, if that weren’t enough Caldara struggled significantly in Italy’s match versus Portugal which reinforced the story line that he needs time to adapt to playing on a bigger stage than Atalanta.

Meret on the other had already struggled with injuries in his first season in Serie A which however didn’t stop Napoli from investing significantly in him to replace Pepe Reina. Meret has yet to play this season, and just like Musacchio with Romagnoli, his replacement David Ospina has performed well enough to be compared to Claudio Garella, the keeper on the club’s first scudetto winning team.

Caldara and Meret have the talent to turn this around, but this is definitely not the start they envisioned either 







While Parma and Sassuolo are distancing themselves significantly from the relegation zone, these two clubs are setting themselves up for a season of suffering and stress. Bologna never adequately replaced Simone Verdi, who almost single handedly carried their offense last season, and new manager Pippo Inzaghi is probably considering suiting up since his team only scored four goals this season (second worst in the league).

Chievo still find themselves with negative points after the deduction for the inflated plusvalenze on the transfer market. The flying donkeys made the first manager change of the season (barely defeating Gena in this dubious race) by hiring Gian Piero Ventura, the biggest pariah in Italian football. While Chievo have enough talent to make up ground since there are other teams struggling, their impressive streak of ten consecutive seasons in Serie A could be coming to an end.







SERIE A: 5 Players Who Could Leave Abroad This Summer

The football season all across Europe is officially over, so the transfer rumours and speculation have already commenced. With English teams having heavy pockets as always, and the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich looking to upgrade, a few stars of Serie A could look to move for a pay raise, or a chance to win a club trophy. Here are five players that could depart Italy in this summer transfer market.


1. Jorginho (Napoli)

The regista has been on many teams’ radar over the past season, including the likes of reining Premier League champions Manchester City, as coach Pep Guardiola has reportedly kept a close eye on the 26-year-old. Right when the season ended, rumours began to swirl around Italy and England linking the Italian-Brazilian to Manchester, for a fee in the vicinity of 50 million Euros. His agent has also come out and spoke on his client’s behalf, saying they haven’t yet spoken to new coach Carlo Ancelotti yet, and that they will see what happens in the coming weeks. Roberto Mancini is using Jorginho as a pivotal part in his Azzurri midfield, as he played the full 90 minutes against Saudi Arabia in the 2-1 win on May 28th, 2018. Insiders have already revealed who Napoli could potentially replace the midfielder with, and this adds to the speculation of a potential summer move.

Torino vs Lazio

2. Sergej Milinković-Savić (Lazio)

Is he worth 130 million Euros? According to reports in Italy, this is what Lazio president Claudio Lotito is apparently demanding for teams who want to purchase the young, Serbian starlet this summer. The 23-year-old had a dominant season in 2017-2018 Serie A, scoring 12 goals and adding 3 assists to boot. In addition, he scored 2 goals and provided 3 assists in Lazio’s Europa League campaign. Over the past few years, Milinković-Savić’s name has been in transfer rumours throughout Europe, with the likes of Real Madrid, Manchester United, and even Juventus all said to be interested in the midfielder. His performances, especially this past season has put the world on notice, and he will have the 2018 World Cup with Serbia to either increase his value, prove his worth or even potentially lower Lotito’s demands for the summer. “Minko” has been looking like Paul Pogba in his time at Juventus over the past two seasons, and he may be paid like the Frenchman too.


3. Lucas Torreira (Sampdoria)

The 22-year-old Uruguayan has played an integral role for Marco Giampaolo and Sampdoria over the past two seasons, becoming the outright starter in the central midfielder role. Torreira’s game is one that you get to appreciate by actually watching him, not through stats. Against the likes of Milan and Juventus this season, the youngster was one of the best players on the pitch; winning possession, covering tons of space, and starting attacks with a pass in-between the lines. Over the last few weeks, it’s been reported that Arsenal and new boss Unai Emery like his style of play and will ask Sampdoria for their price demands this summer, sparking several rumours over his future. He was included in Uruguay’s World Cup roster, so if he performs well, his name will be on many wish lists this summer.


4. Gianluigi Donnarumma (Milan)

Over the past 12 months, there’s been nothing but drama surrounding the 19-year-old, and his popular agent, Mino Raiola. His agent has added to the speculation during the season and transfer market, saying if it was up to him Gigio wouldn’t be a Milan player anymore, but his will is to stay at the club he’s grown at. There has been many teams across Europe interested, including Real Madrid, Manchester United and Liverpool who have apparently kicked tires on the goalkeeper. Milan management have stated their will to keep him at the club for a long time, but if a miraculous offer comes in the summer transfer market, the Rossoneri will have to consider and re-invest in other areas.


5. Gonzalo Higuain (Juventus)

After two seasons with the Bianconeri and winning two scudetti, the Argentine striker may be on his way out this summer. During the season, there were not many rumours surrounding the experienced centre-forward, but after Juve’s last match and scudetto celebration, there has been plenty of speculation around his future. In a shocking move, some reports said he could move to Inter with money in exchange with countryman Mauro Icardi, which would be one of the most crazy swap deals in Serie A history. Former Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri may be moving to Chelsea in England, and may recall his former player to join him in London. After investing over 90 million Euros on the striker two summers ago, Juventus will surely not make a profit on him, so the highest bidder would most likely acquire his services this summer.

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Inzaghi’s Lazio on the brink of Champions League


With the majority of Serie A already done and dusted ahead of the final weekend of the season, the clash set for the most attention is Lazio’s home game against Inter Milan.

This game was billed as a domestic Champions League play-off a few weeks ago, with both sides chasing a place in next season’s premier European competition.

However results in the last fortnight have moved Lazio further into the driving seat, damaging Luciano Spalletti’s side in the process.

Lazio, currently in 4th, have a three point lead on Inter, in fifth, with the Milanese side needing to win by four clear goals on Sunday to swing the situation in their favour.

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Lazio and Inter set for Champions League ‘play-off’

FC Internazionale v AC Chievo Verona - Serie A

The penultimate round of games in the Serie A  season gets underway this weekend, with big ckashes taking place across Italy.

The title will be Juventus’ with one point from their last two games, with Napoli cocooned in behind them in second place.

Below that, the race to secure the remaining two Champions League spots is set to go to the wire.

Roma, in third, look a strong shout to seal a return to the competition they reached the semi finals of this season, in 2018-19.

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Icardi v Immobile battle to settle Top Four


With Juventus and Napoli making the Serie A title contest into a two-horse race,  with former having the edge currently, attention turns to other battles in Italy’s top flight.

Roma look set to secure third spot, behind both Juventus and Napoli by 16 and 14 points respectively, however Eusebio Di Francesco’s side have a four point lead on fourth.

The fight for that final Champions League qualification spot looks set to go down to the wire, with two sides, and potentially a third, in direct competition.

Inter have the advantage currently, a point ahead of Lazio, in fifth, with a game in hand.

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