An incredibly busy summer has come to a close at the Olimpico and, overall, I’m pretty chuffed with the work we have done. Some backroom staff were out of contract so they were replaced but most of the changes came in the playing squad. 33 players left the club and 12 came in, obviously a fair whack of those that left were from the U20 and U18 teams.
I had basically decided that anyone with a potential rating of less than 3.5 stars was surplus to requirements and that included a few ageing high profile stars. All in all the sales netted us a cool £19.25m so I had a bit of money to play with. So what to do with all that mullah?
Well, trying to buy established players is an expensive business. Ridiculously expensive. However, as a Serie A club I can’t just buy loads of promising youngsters and blood them, like I did with Siena. The compromise, I think, is players aged about 20-22 with some first-team football experience and, ideally, U21 caps for their country. So I went raking about the international U21 squads. From that I managed to find centre halves Edoardo Bianchi (21 years old) and Filippo Romagna (23) both Italian U21 internationals. This would, hopefully, also help my porous defence. My scouts unearthed Diogo (21), another centre half and Brazilian U20 international and then I made the signing of the summer.
I’d lost my back up keeper and my number 1 keeper was pretty shite anyway. I’d had the scouts working on the goalkeeping situation for most of the second half of last season so I had 4 or 5 options to choose from. My top target was Christian Fruchtl (20). He was back up to Manuel Neuer at Bayern but was classed as a wonderkid so I thought I had no chance. Valued at about £300k I just threw in a bid of £1.8m, as suggested by my scouts, expecting it to be rejected but it was immediately accapted with no negotiation. Fucking bonza. I imagine I’ll keep him for 1 season but he’ll be sold for a fortune.
I also brought in my old favourite Alessandro Bastoni (21) who I had had at Siena for 3 years, on loan from Chelsea. He has been called up to the full Italy squad for the first time during the first international break. Also on loan arrived Kenji-Van Boto, 24 year-old left back valued at £9.25m, and Celtic hero Patrick Roberts, who I’m hoping will add a spark of creativity to the team.
To round off the first team squad I promoted Godfred Donsah and Aleix Garcia who had been out on loan last season. Given the state of the squad when I took over I’ve no idea why they were allowed to go out on loan in the first place. Alongside the young players I blooded last season I have a decent looking squad although it is still a bit young with an average age of just 23, the lowest in Serie A.
Surprisingly Lazio only sold about 4500 season tickets. This seems ridiculously low. Our average attendance last season was a little under 20k, in a stadium with a capacity of 87,409 (which differs from Wikipedia). Roma, who we share the Olimpico with, averaged 38k. I don’t know a lot about Italian football in real life but I still thought this was pretty low but apparently not:
Anyway, back on the pitch, we comfortably qualified for the Europa League group stage, the first continental campaign of the challenge, where we drawn alongside Schalke, Basaksehir and Standard Liege. Might struggle to win the group but should qualify. We also started the league campaign with a draw (1-1) away to Palermo and a thumping home victory over Fiorentina (4-0). Already Fruchtl and Roberts look like inspired signings and James Fofana, who I played at centre-back for the 2nd half of last season, has adapted to his new role as first choice right-back seamlessly. All in all a good start but we haven’t really been challenged yet. The board expect Europa League qualification and the media predicts us to finish 6th.