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  21/05/2012: "We'll probably end up with Zola"
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As always, speculation is rife as to who we will appoint and as you might expect, there appears to be no outstanding candidate for the job. I said yesterday that Lazio need someone who can build on the foundations Reja has laid out. In order to do that, the ideal manager must be strong and have personality, and in addition to that, they must have a glittering career, as either a manager or player, to keep this squad believing that anything is possible at Lazio. In order to achieve long-term success, that manager should be young and have a plethora of fresh ideas to introduce to the mixing pot.

There are a number of our former players who would be excellent candidates for the job but they are mostly employed at other clubs and are completely unattainable. However, ex-Lazio players are dominating the managerial business at the moment. Fact: the Champions League, Europa League and Premier League titles are all in the hands of managers who are ex-Laziali. Roberto Mancini has already done his time as manager of Lazio, while the boat has probably been missed for both Diego Simeone and Roberto Di Matteo, at least for now. Even if they were available would we want them in charge? That is the other question.

If you look at Simeone's career, you will find it is a bit of a mixed bag. He took over at Racing in Argentina briefly, started poorly but rallied on to a respectable league position. At the end of the day, it wasn't enough to secure the job permanently when new owners entered the fray. At Estudiantes, he won the Championship for the first time in decades. Next season, they struggled terribly and despite a strong end to the Apertura - Argentina's first half of the season, essentially, he left the club. He signed for River Plate who saw enough in him to warrant giving him the job. He won the Clausura title, and yet almost immediately, they were relegated to the second division for the first time in their history. They were dumped out of the Copa Sudamericana by a relatively unknown Mexican club and had failed to win in 11 games. Simeone was sacked and soon joined San Lorenzo and it wasn't long before he was dismissed there also. His career in Argentina had its moments, but he ultimately left for Catania with many a concern over his managerial ability.

He was praised at Catania for being more adventurous than Marco Giampaolo who reigned before him, but at the end of the day, Simeone's spell in charge was very modest and from the moment we defeated them 4-1, the wheels looked to be falling off the wagon. Catania president Lo Monaco was far from convinced by Simeone and likewise, Simeone didn't seem too overwhelmed by Catania. Diego has now found himself at a former club in Atletico Madrid and having won the competition, his stock has gone up significantly. A European trophy is an impressive feat regardless of what trophy it is or how it was won, but let's be real for a second - Atletico were by far the most talented team in the Europa League this season. They arguably have the best striker in the world in Falcao right now and Simeone had very little to lose when taking over because Atletico had done very little in the season so far. Atletico's league form picked up towards the end of the season and so you have to acknowledge the impact Simeone has had on the club, but if his career so far teaches us anything it is that he is not very consistent and what Lazio crave right now is consistency.

If you look at Di Matteo's career, he is even more of a gamble. In his season with MK Dons, he narrowly missed out on promotion via the play-offs, which is mightily impressive considering they had only been promoted to the third tier in the previous season. It earned him a move to West Brom where he secured promotion to the Premier League in a seesaw fashion. At times, they were unstoppable, on other occasions, they looked vulnerable. This continued into the Premier League where they got off to a decent start despite losing 6-0 to Chelsea on the opening day, but a bad run of form took them towards the drop zone and West Brom took advantage of Roy Hodgson's sacking from Liverpool and dismissed Di Matteo.

Di Matteo was subsequently overlooked for the Birmingham City job where he would have been a controversial appointment given the rivalry that exists between Birmingham and Roberto's previous employer in West Brom. As a result, he chose to return to Chelsea to assist the now infamous Andre Villas-Boas and one year on, we all know how that particular chapter in Di Matteo's career has concluded. He is a Champions League winning manager, which makes his curriculum vitae stand out like a sore thumb, but like Simeone, how difficult was his job? How difficult is it to galvanise a squad whose confidence is rockbottom? They way I see it, Di Matteo has essentially carried out AVB's ethos in a manner that couldn't be any more different to AVB's. He has inherited a squad who are past their prime and have now had their last hurrah. From now on, the chalice increases in toxicity.

Both managers are going to struggle to build on the reputations they have established this season. I am no psychic, but I don't see Atletico winning La Liga or the Champions League any time soon nor do I see Chelsea winning the Premier League title in the near future. Neither coach has shown the long-term stability required to reach the highest echelons, although you could argue that Di Matteo has done precisely that in record quick time.

I don't see either manager as realistic options for us or as managers who could take us to the next level, so you are probably wondering why I outlined them in such detail. I will put it simply - these managers have given their clubs an instant boost because they know and understand the club they manage and they can identify with the players as a result. In spite of that, have they the required ability to manage a top level side? I'm not convinced of that, but Simeone and Di Matteo would have had that instantaneous impact at Lazio and can do in the future. The time is right for us to hire an ex-player, in the future, it may not be. So who can we look towards?

That's the million dollar question - is there an ex-player out there who has shown enough as a manager to take on the responsibility? In my opinion, no. Sinisa Mihajlovic has just been announced as the new Serbia coach earlier today but his more than modest showings at Bologna, Catania and Fiorentina wouldn't inspire any confidence for me at least anyway. I guess the only other viable alternative would be Matias Almeyda, but the Argentine is busy restoring the loss of pride River Plate suffered under Simeone and while he seems to be a promising prospect, he is a bit too wet behind the ears to consider.

Sadly, we will have to look elsewhere I believe. The favourite at the moment in Gianfranco Zola. His name has been linked to us since Edy Reja's resignation in February, when Claudio Lotito is believed to have sounded him out, but his agent has stressed that Lazio have not contacted him since then. Zola has some favourable characteristics - he is young, fresh and understands the Italian game and his name alone would be enough for our players to want to earn his respect and trust. However, his spell at West Ham is not overly impressive and in their hierarchy, Zola was well down the pecking order, to the point where you wonder if he had any control over the team at all. It would be frightening to think that the Lazio squad could change hands from someone who was a borderline control freak in Reja to someone who has seemed too easy-going in Zola.

Despite being the favourite, I am not convinced that Zola is the number one candidate. If we have sounded him out in January like the media say, then wouldn't he have been drafted in almost immediately? With that in mind, I believe Lotito is probably leaning towards someone who is currently coaching in Serie A or has recently been dismissed. Due to Serie A regulations that limit a coach to only one club per season, none of the current batch of Serie A coaches would have been available to Lotito in February so he could not consider them as options until now. One possibility is Walter Mazzarri. He is undoubtedly one of Serie A's finer coaches when you consider what he has managed to achieve at Napoli. Actually, he could be the ideal candidate as Napoli are the evidence that Mazzarri can inherit an Edy Reja side and take them to the next level. That's not to say Mazzarri would work for us - his spell at Sampdoria suggests that not every club is for him but he is certainly a candidate considering his contract is set to expire. His salary is 2.5 million, which is above our salary cap and much more than Lotito would surely be willing to pay but with only a month to find an agreement with De Laurentiis, Lotito may feel he can snare the Napoli boss.

The outsider would be Giuseppe Sannino. He is believed to be incredibly close to the Palermo hotseat, as he was believed to be incredibly close to the Genoa hotseat last month but as it stands, he remains the Siena coach. However, if we are interested, we can easily have him. Siena would be more likely to let us speak to him given that their President is a relation of Lotito's. Why would we want Sannino? His last six years as a manager speaks volumes. In one season at Lecco, he got them promoted. In one season at Pergocrema, he got them promoted. In three seasons at Varese, he got them promoted from Serie C2 to Serie B, finishing in the promotion play-off spots for Serie A in his final season and this year, he guided Siena to safety with quite a bit to spare. He remains somewhat of an unknown quantity but he is a gamble that could pay off.

Out of all these options, I can't put my finger on a name and say "Yes, that's our guy" but it is clear as day what we need. Essentially, we need our Antonio Conte, a club icon who can strengthen everyone around him. That is the trend that is emerging in modern management - we have seen it with Guardiola and Barcelona for the last few years and we are now seeing it with Simeone and Di Matteo also. If that person is not out there or is not available, then we have to find our answer to Max Allegri or Walter Mazzarri. Maybe our answer to Walter Mazzarri is Walter Mazzarri ourself but someone like Sannino or Piolo or Di Carlo may be the way to go. Someone who may be capable of taking themselves up a level or two may just be capable of doing the same for Lazio.

But here's where the pessimism kicks in - we'll probably end up with Zola.

(Cathal Mullan)
Szymon 6/12/2012 2:22:17 PM
Very good analysis. However, I do think that our next coach will be someone that has not been mentioned in newspapers so far.
Enzo 6/12/2012 2:23:02 PM
Awesome article! Well done!
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