Lazio will look back on the 2020/21 season with regret, after going into the campaign with such optimism ahead of a return to the Champions League for the first time in 17 years.
The prospect of securing a second season in the top tier of European football were hampered by a slow start though, and whilst a mid-year recovery gave them renewed hope, the Biancoceleste’s three wins in their final eight games put paid to that.
Simone Inzaghi’s side endured a season of many peaks and troughs but did well to keep themselves in the mix at the top end of the table, whilst they will hope to make their mark on the Europa League this season.
There were certainly positives to take away from the campaign, with midfielders Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Luis Alberto continuing to impress, whilst striker Ciro Immobile broke the 20-goal barrier for the fourth time in his five years at the club and will be heavily backed by punters at Euro 2020 with Coral bookmaker.
However, he fell some way short of his record-equalling 36 from last term as Lazio lacked the attacking spark of 2019/20, whilst defensively they flattered to deceive, as new arrivals Wesley Hoedt and Matteo Musacchio struggled.
Player of the Season: Sergej Milinkovic-Savic
The Serbia international enjoyed his most productive season at the Stadio Olimpico since arriving from Genk in 2015 as he scored eight and provided 10 assists from 32 Serie A appearances.
Milinkovic-Savic was a dominant presence in the heart of Lazio’s midfield and often dragged his side over the line during their more difficult spells, as witnessed with a last gasp goal in victory over Hellas Verona, as well as crucial strikes in wins over Sassuolo and Crotone.
At 25, the midfielder has developed into one of the most powerful and reliable players in Serie A, whilst his surging runs into the box continue to be a crucial factor in Lazio’s success, particularly in tandem with Immobile.
Having finally tasted Champions League football with the Aquile, Milinkovic-Savic will be desperate for more and will play a key role in any hopes Lazio have of making a return to the top four next season.
Best Signing: Mohamed Fares
Lazio took a punt on the Algerian after he stood out for relegated SPAL last season, and he has proven to be a capable wing-back.
Fares was one of the first arrivals last summer in a €7.2 million deal and he made 29 appearances in all competitions, providing a pacy alternative to club captain Senad Lulic on the left.
If this year was his settling in phase, Fares promises to be a more integral part of the squad next term and should overtake the aging Lulic as first choice, particularly as Lazio look to exploit their flanks and get the ball up the pitch as quickly as possible.
Whilst not taking the league by storm in his debut campaign, there was enough in Fares’ season to suggest he could be at Lazio for the long-term.
The Coach: Simone Inzaghi
Lazio’s former striker has overseen a complete turnaround in fortunes for the capital club after five seasons at the helm, and continued to impress with another solid season.
Whilst not quite living up to the incredible campaign of last year, Inzaghi nonetheless kept Lazio in the mix for Champions League qualification until the very end and his brand of direct and attacking football maintained strong performances from key figures like Immobile and Milinkovic-Savic.
Inzaghi seemed reluctant to blood promising young players however and appeared determined to battle it out with a handful of selected players, much to the frustration of fans who had hoped to see glimpses of the hugely talented teenagers Raul Moro and Nicolo Armini.
The ex-Italy international appears set to depart Lazio for champions Inter this summer, leaving behind a portfolio of sustained success and impressive performances.
After almost two decades away from Europe’s top table, Lazio marked their return to the Champions League in style as they went unbeaten in a tricky group to come second, taking four points off both Borussia Dortmund and Zenit Saint Petersburg.
Inzaghi’s men were in superb form on the continent and showed no signs of nerves throughout the group stage, but an opening day 3-1 win over dark horses Dortmund will live long in the memory of Biancoceleste supporters around the world.
An early Immobile goal set the tone and Lazio were in dreamland by full time at the Stadio Olimpico, as a Marwin Hitz’s own goal and a Jean-Daniel Akpa Akpro goal meant Erling Haaland’s strike was nothing more than a consolation for the visitors.
Their Champions League run would ultimately come to an end in the First Knockout Round at the hands of another German club in Bayern Munich, as an error-strewn first leg saw them collapse and go out 6-2 on aggregate.
Amidst a summer in which Lazio’s transfer activity was limited despite Champions League qualification, the capital club got it spectacularly wrong when signing Vedat Muriqi.
The Kosovan striker arrived from Fenerbahce in a €17m deal but looked off the pace of Serie A from his debut and offered the Aquile little going forward.
After relying so heavily on Immobile for goals last season, Muriqi was brought in to ease the burden but managed just a solitary league strike in 27 appearances, taking until the end of January before finally finding the back of the net in a 3-1 win over Atalanta.
Similarly, the 27-year-old made little impact in the Champions League, whilst his only other goal for the club came in a Coppa Italia Quarter-Final defeat, curiously also against Atalanta.
Lazio may well cut their losses on Muriqi and attempt to offload him this summer, but for a club that pride themselves on strong recruitment, he must go down as one of their most wayward transfer dealings in recent years.