Wednesday Jul 26, 2017  
     
 
  17/04/2013: The Sacrificial Lamb
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In recent days, media speculation has centered on Lazio's midfield maestro, Anderson Hernanes and the timing could not be any more appropriate. Things had been quiet for a couple of months as Lazio's Director of Sport Igli Tare calmly informed the press that Hernanes' contract situation would be discussed further when the 2012/13 season comes to an end. With only six weeks remaining in the season, and with Lazio in horrendous form, it is not inconceivable that Hernanes is in a rush for the exit door.

If you know Hernanes, however, that is far from the case. The Brazilian grew up within the ranks of Sao Paolo, winning two Brazilian League titles in 2007 and 2008. The latter campaign was such a success that he also found himself picking up the Brazilian player of the Year award. Despite these accolades, no traditional big club acquired his services in the summer that followed and according to Hernanes himself, it was Lazio's keen interest that swayed him towards a move to Europe in 2010.

The player, his wife and three children have been very much at home in Rome ever since and the impact the player has had on Lazio has been indescribable. As Mauro Zarate began his fade into obscurity, Hernanes staked his claim for the mantle with his samba feet and goalscoring prowess.

Three seasons on and with Lazio looking uncertain on the field, Hernanes future is no more clear cut. Currently sitting on a contract to 2015, it seems that there are two possible outcomes in the summer - a new contract extension that will see Hernanes remain in the capital for at least five years when Hernanes will be 33, or an imminent departure. If we are to believe Igli Tare, a deal is already in place and it is merely a matter of arranging a meeting and handing Hernanes and his agent a couple of pens. If we are to believe Hernanes and his agent, however, nothing is decided yet and there is no crime in keeping doors open. This is a worry for the fans, though there are many, myself included, who feel the sums of money that are being reported should be more than enough to force Lotito's hand.

And in truth, Lotito's hand might not be too difficult to force. With only 24 months to run on his current deal, Lotito will be looking to avoid another Goran Pandev or Mobido Diakite'-type situation. Knowing this, the media are having a field day, speculating intensely and fuel is being added to the fire by Hernanes' agent, who has openly admitted that clubs in Italy and England are showing an interest. In Italy, the teams that are reported to be keen are the current top 3 in Serie A - Juventus, Napoli and AC Milan. In England, we can look no further than Manchester City.

Hernanes' main concern with regards to where he plays next season will be a starting place. His top priority for 2014 is to be in the Brazilian national team for World Cup 2014 in Brazil. His success at Lazio enabled him to work his way into Mano Menezes plans, but poor displays on international duty saw him fall out of favour. Luckily for Hernanes, Menezes was given the boot, Luiz Felipe Scolari was given the reigns and Hernanes is once again a part of the setup. Another season at Lazio would almost guarantee Hernanes a spot in Brazil in 2014, but as I mentioned earlier, Lotito is unlikely to let this happen without tying the Brazilian down for the foreseeable future.

The moment Hernanes signs a new deal is the moment he commits the remainder of his career in Europe to Lazio. I expect Hernanes to go back to his hometown club as Brazilians often do, and if Hernanes signs a deal which keeps him in Rome until he is 33, then the time will be right once it reaches its expiration date. Therefore there is a secondary concern for Hernanes if he is to sign any new deal - the competitivity of Lazio, and the likelihood that Lazio can qualify for the Champions League and contend for silverware.

That probably also rules AC Milan and Napoli out as possible destinations for Hernanes. They have had much more successful league campaigns than Lazio in 2012/13 and both look destined for the Champions League, but with AC Milan's financial issues and the almost certain departure of Edinson Cavani from Napoli this summer, it is quite possible that they are no better a bet than Lazio in the long-term. That, in turn, probably makes Juventus an even more attractive option but it is difficult to see where Hernanes would get playing time in Turin. Marchisio and Vidal are better players in my opinion and offer more protection to both Pirlo and the defence. Both are young and have time to improve and even if Pirlo's legs do eventually go, Paul Pogba is there to step up and take over. If Juventus are keen on Hernanes, it is because they want to change tactic but surely Lotito's tactic will be to sell Hernanes abroad.

Which leaves us with Manchester City, who are reportedly lining up a bid of 18 million plus Swedish sensation John Guidetti. It has been well documented that Vladimir Petkovic would like a striker or two and Guidetti has been linked with Lazio as recently as last summer. On paper, it is a sexy offer but on paper, it also looks like media garbage.

Nevertheless, I do think Manchester City are interested in Hernanes. The Citizens can spend whatever they like this summer. Financial Fair Play rules come into force as of 2013/14 and Manchester City are destined not to comply but there is a stipulation that says that a team can avoid punishment if they show a willingness to comply with the regulations over a two-year period. That is why Mancini had a quiet summer and winter on the transfer market and that is why I expect them to spend big this summer. The first port of call will be offloading the underperforming Samir Nasri and replacing him with a sound all-round midfielder with a good range of passing skills. Hernanes fits the bill.

There are other sides, of course, that could show an interest such as PSG, but if they are keen, then Hernanes' agent does not know about it yet. As it stands, if Hernanes is to leave Rome, expect him to go to Manchester City who not only have the money, but have the patience to negotiate with Claudio Lotito and Igli Tare.

Should it happen, our attention will immediately turn to potential replacements and Granit Xhaka stands out. The Swiss midfielder, who regards Igli Tare as his friend, has been quite vocal about a move away from Borussia Mönchengladbach. He shone in the Champions League last season with FC Basel as they eliminated Manchester United, but a darker side has emerged in Germany. BMG paid 8 million and despite not liking the kid very much, they now want 12. Lotito won't part with that sum of money easily, but the sale of Hernanes would smooth out the transaction. The remainder of the cash would surely go on a striker. Guidetti is certainly an option as is Swiss forward Innocent Emeghara who has 7 in 11 on loan at relegation battlers, Siena.

Essentially, we do not know what may or may not happen and what may or may not be done if something does happen but what we do know is that a swift resolution is necessary. In an ideal world, Lazio would keep Hernanes for one more season, Hernanes would shine in World Cup 2014, Lotito would sell him on for a ridiculous sum of money, invest that cash in a number of world-class players and Lazio would win the Scudetto. In reality, the time to sell Hernanes or commit him to a new deal is now - but as always, it is not in Lotito's hands.

Follow Cathal Mullan on Twitter: @100_500_1000
Author: Cathal Mullan
 
 
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