After qualifying for the group stage for the first time since 2007, the club’s supporters were anticipating stellar signings but none have arrived
Two days before Lazio’s Serie A opener at Cagliari, one of the club’s ultra groups hung a banner on the railing of the Ponte Milvio overpass in Rome.
It read: “False promises and mediocrity. The transfer market is the usual mess. Get out of the temple, merchant!”
That biblical put-down was aimed at Lazio president Claudio Lotito, who has a reputation for being rather frugal.
Of course, prudence is hardly unwise in the current economic climate. Lotito, though, has plenty of previous when it comes to disappointing the club’s supporters in the transfer market.
As far back as 2013, Lazio fans were boycotting the start of matches and proclaiming their summer window “another dud”. The following year, many did not turn up at all for a Serie A game against Atalanta at the Stadio Olimpico.
Still, the latest backlash is a little bit different. Even accounting for the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, Lazio’s summer transfer market was expected to go well.
After all, by finishing fourth in Serie A last season, the Biancocelesti ensured participation in the group stage of the Champions League for the first time since 2007.
Signing players, then, should have been easy. Unfortunately, it proved painfully difficult.
When the window opened, Lazio looked poised to sign Manchester City legend David Silva. When it closed, they had instead picked up Manchester United reject Andreas Pereira.
The fans’ pessimism going into Tuesday’s Champions League opener against Borussia Dortmund is, therefore, understandable.
However, there are some grounds for optimism. For starters, the draw has been kind to them.
Dortmund are obviously overflowing with exciting young talents, but Lazio will be optimistic about their chances of finishing above Zenit and Club Brugge – if they can field their first-choice line-up in every Group F clash.
And therein lies the crux of the issue.
The reason why the fans were so upset by the lack of stellar signings during the summer was the squad’s obvious shortcomings.
Lazio have a strong starting 11. Indeed, last season, the likes of Ciro Immobile, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, Luis Alberto, Francesco Acerbi and Thomas Strakosha put the capital club in a fine position to win a first Serie A title since 2000. However, Covid-19 changed everything.
When play was suspended in March, second-placed Lazio were just one point behind leaders Juventus and undefeated in 21 games in the league.
When football returned in June, Lazio lost six of their final 12 games and ended up finishing a distant fourth.