Last week, Lazio traveled to Naples for the final showdown with Napoli, with both teams trying to secure third spot that would ensure participation in the Champions League play-off games. Due to the Serie A putting goal difference behind direct comparison between two teams, Lazio’s task was to avoid defeat in front a hostile crowd of 50,000. Having arrived in Naples incredibly well prepared, the club from Rome hit the ground running and went into half time with a 2-0 lead. Things turned spicy after the break however, when Argentinian striker Gonzalo Higuain supplied a brace to level the score in the 64th minute, at which stage Lazio were down to ten men. With the game on the edge of excitement, one would have fancied Napoli to go on and win the game, but Lazio’s season was obviously no blip and nerves of steel came to the rescue to help the Romans to score twice more for a decisive victory.
As a result, the club from Italy’s capital were able to record their best Serie A finish in years, despite working with a rather modest budget during the previous summer. In other words, the club that finished ninth last year have significantly overachieved, which ultimately puts Lazio in a very comfortable position in terms of player recruitment and such. Surely, it should have been Napoli, Fiorentina or Inter finishing third, but the Biancocelesti managed to improve to a great extent during the second half of the season and even ended up with the best goal difference in the league over the last 19 games.
The club’s unexpected success now provides for an opportunity of rebuilding a great team that might eventually challenge for more, especially because anything, maybe apart from trumping Juve, seems possible in Italy’s top flight. This season, some of Lazio’s players ended up performing above expectations and can now provide the platform for the upcoming campaign. Marco Parolo for example, turned out to be a nice bargain, after he was signed for €4.5 million from struggling Parma last summer. The midfielder contributed ten goals and two assists in 34 appearances and was one of Lazio’s most consistent. Serbia international Filip Dordevic joined Lazio on a free transfer from French side Nantes last summer, and was another star player this season, scoring eight and assisting two.
Essentially, Lazio managed to perform as a unit all season. So much so, they scored the second most goals, just one less than champions Juventus, but none of the club’s players contributed more than 13, with goals coming from all positions. In other words, the team was the star. In addition to this, the appointment of Stefano Pioli from Bologna worked out more than well and the manager seems to hold the key for further team success.
The excitement around Lazio is genuine and the club look nothing like the lavish spenders they were, when they won the league back in 2000. This is a much more sustainable Lazio and one that can look ahead to a bright future. If the club continue their walk along this road, they will surely see further success and produce some star players along the way.