“I don’t know how long I can go on for” were the words uttered by Edy Reja just under a year ago upon receiving a hail of abuse from the fans following a 1-1 draw against Cesena, and it wasn’t to be the first or last time that the Lazio boss would threaten to quit the Rome club.
The last week has been beyond farcical in Rome with the coach tendering a resignation before having it thrown back in his face. All is not well at the club and while the relationship between Edy Reja and Claudio Lotito has been super-glued back together, a departure now feels inevitable.
Lazio are in 4th in Serie A. To describe them as a side in crisis is ludicrous, but the short termism that surrounds football often leads us down this path, the 5-1 mauling in Palermo highlights their poor recent form. The side has conceded 14 goals in their last 5 games including just the solitary win, a win at home to Cesena requiring an all-out offensive to overturn a 2-goal half-time deficit.
All considered Edy Reja is doing a good job. On this occasion the problems are related to issues in the boardroom, more specifically with Claudio Lotito and, sporting director, Igli Tare, rather than with the fans – as has been the case in the past.
The meeting with Reja last Tuesday is the second time in 2012 that the president has seen it necessary to interfere with matters on the pitch. The meeting was called because Lotito and Tare were unhappy that Reja had played just one central defender against Palermo when Giuseppe Biava and Marius Stankevicius were both available after returning from injury.
Rumours suggested that the coach did it in anger and out of spite over a spat about the poor January transfer window, but the coach cited tactical reasons stating that he didn’t want to play two centre backs with similar characteristics. If the president wants to look anywhere for answers to the current problems then he must point the finger first at himself and at Tare.
Under Lotito the club’s fortunes have certainly improved, some have even referred to him as a ‘Messiah’, but the club is now in danger of plateauing. The excellent Swiss Ramble report on the club showed the president’s prudent nature saw a wage to turnover ratio of just 46% in 2009-10, the 7th highest revenues and 5th highest attendances in Serie A. Also, in the past Lotito has often been accused of penny pinching, refusing to offer a new deal to Cristian Ledesma two seasons ago for example, but in the past three seasons the club have made the 3rd highest net spend – €62m.
Reja, though, has some right to feel aggrieved about a January transfer window in which a striker and a centre back were sold and none of the players he asked for were acquired by Tare. In fact without the goals and assists of Miroslav Klose, this season the team would find itself in 15th place on 29 points and involved in a relegation battle. The squad is average and Reja has been able to squeeze the best out of it with some very direct football.
Would an ambitious president allow the club to go 4 seasons without a shirt sponsor? Not even accepting a small deal which could pay off some of the club’s huge tax bill. Would an ambitious president let important deals (Keisuke Honda) run to the final few minutes of the transfer window over a relatively small difference in price before seeing them fail?
The president is usually busy arguing with CONI (the Italian Olympic committee who lease Lazio their stadium), arguing with other presidents or struggling to maintain power on the league board. Actions which lack class and also serve to continue the idea that Lotito is only interested in his own success, and not that of the club.
The ridiculous situation at the club this week won’t have helped the credibility of anyone involved, things have been patched up but it looks like a relationship of convenience rather than happiness.
“Things were cleared up and therefore my adventure at Lazio continues”
No matter how well you glue some items back together, though, it’s only a matter of time before they’ll end up in the bin.