Monday Apr 24, 2017  
     
 
  04/08/2015: Under the Microscope: Lazio's New Signings
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WESLEY HOEDT

The case for Hoedt

In his first full season for AZ Alkmaar, Hoedt broke into the starting eleven, established himself as a regular and went on to become their player of the season, guiding the Cheese Famers to a 3rd place finish and the Europa League. It is an impressive feat for a 21 year-old, and something that could not have been achieved without a certain degree of talent, a strong mentality and a good work ethic. Standing at 1.92m, Hoedt is a big no nonsense defender, averaging 10 clearances per game last season - an Eredivisie high. He also has good feet and is comfortable moving out of defence with possession; in theory, he should be able to adapt to all styles of play.

The case against Hoedt

Understandably, Hoedt has been compared to Stefan de Vrij but while the Lazio centre-back had over 150 appearances with Feyenoord and numerous international caps under his belt before moving to Rome, Hoedt has only played in 30 professional football games at the time of writing. The extent of his inexperience has led his compatriot and former Lazio player Jaap Stam to express concern over his signing. Hoedt failed to establish himself in the Netherlands national youth sides, and the lack of an international call-up to what is a very young, underperforming Netherlands side suggests he has yet to convince doubters in his homeland. That might have something to do with the fact that AZ Alkmaar had the worst defensive record of any team in the Top 10 in the Eredivisie last season with Hoedt making his fair share of errors, so much so that WhoScored.com list 'concentration' as a weakness.

RAVEL MORRISON

The case for Morrison

Ravel Morrison was one of the highest-regarded young talents in world football a few years ago with Sir Alex Ferguson proclaiming him to be the best young player he had ever come across with many of Morrison's Manchester United teammates suggesting the Mancunian had a slight edge in the talent stakes over his French counterpart, Paul Pogba. Morrison has shown glimpses of that talent since, with impressive individual displays in the Premier League with West Ham and a relatively successful loan spell with QPR in the Championship. Not everything we read in the papers regarding Morrison is true, and that may have put the handbrake on what could be a world class player. At the age of 22, Morrison could yet mature into the player he was expected to become.

The case against Morrison

Morrison's attitude to the game has been questioned by every single manager, without exception, who has had the opportunity to work with him. They cannot all be wrong, and there is no getting away from the fact that his behaviour off the field has come under consideration in a court of law. Lazio do not have a good track record with players that have a reputation for being difficult to work with, nor have Lazio shown that they can take a prodigious talent who has lost his way and transform him into a world class player. That raises the possibility that Morrison and Lazio are not a good fit. In addition, Morrison most recently failed to make an impact at Cardiff City, who finished mid-table in England's second-tier last season. Lazio is a huge step up in class for Morrison and it is debateable as to whether off-field issues are truly holding back Morrison, or if it could be a case that he is not all he has been cracked up to be. Manchester United do have a reputation for over-hyping their talents and many have faded into obscurity rather quickly.

PATRIC

The case for Patric

Patric left the Villarreal youth system for Barcelona in 2008, which suggests the Spaniard was a rather precocious talent during his teenage years. Lazio's success with Keita Balde Diao proves there are talents at Barcelona who have not been afforded the opportunity they deserve, and losing out in competition with Dani Alves and Inter's summer signing Martin Montoya does not disgrace Patric by any means. Patric was one of Barcelona B's better players and there is no reason why a player who has been overlooked by arguably the world's best football team cannot be developed into a player capable of turning out for Lazio. The move to Rome could well be a much needed incentive.

The case against Patric

Barcelona B finished bottom of Spain's Segunda Division last season and on paper at least, it is difficult to see where Patric earned himself the opportunity to play for Lazio. Patric has long been admired by Lazio's Director of Sport Igli Tare, who has identified the Spaniard as Dusan Basta's understudy moving forward but worryingly, Stefano Pioli appears to have preferred injury-prone Abdoulay Konko in pre-season. This suggests the Lazio manager might not share Tare's faith in Patric. Also of concern is Patric's fitness levels which have come under significant scrutiny in pre-season.

RICARDO KISHNA

The case for Kishna

Kishna arrives in Rome off the back of a good breakthrough season with Eredivisie runners-up, Ajax. A pacy winger with an incredibly impressive array of skills and tricks, there is a feeling that Kishna could be sculpted into a world class player with care and effort - something that Ajax manager Frank de Boer could be accused of not giving him. Kishna sees himself as an ideal fit for Lazio's style of play, and early reports suggest he could even be used as a striker on occasion, which should increase his opportunities with Lazio. Some of his best games for Ajax have come in the Champions League, which suggests he will relish the big occasions and not be easily fazed by adversity.

The case against Kishna

Frank de Boer's assessment of Kishna could be spot on. Kishna was in and out of the Ajax team last season as he struggled to find consistency, and de Boer appeared to attribute the lack of consistency to a lack of effort, suspending Kishna towards the end of the season for not warming up properly. A little pedantic, perhaps, but Kishna has had very serious issues with the cartilage in both knees spending 18 months on the sidelines as a teenager, three of which were spent in a wheelchair. Kishna cannot afford to be complacent and to see Ajax selling one of their top talents for a reported four million euro at a time when top Dutch talents such as Memphis Depay can be moved on for 10 times that amount suggests Ajax have real concerns regarding his future. Lazio's decision to subject Kishna to a second medical does not allay any injury fears as we do not know the results of the medicals, and as discussed previously, players with questionable attitudes have been a sore point for Lazio.

SERGEJ MILINKOVIC-SAVIC

The case for Milinkovic-Savic

Emerging from the youth academy of FK Vojvodina where Sinisa Mihajlovic made his first real mark on the game, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic has made an impressive start to his club career. His performances in the Vojvodina first team earned him a move to Racing Genk, where he soon established himself in the starting eleven, helping the Belgian side to a finish in the top half of the table. More impressive, however, has been his international career to date; Sergej has UEFA U19 Championship and FIFA U20 World Cup medals and has already featured for Serbia U21s. Son of a professional footballer and a professional basketball player, the Milinkovic-Savic name has real sporting pedigree; Sergej's younger brother, Vanja is a highly-regarded goalkeeper in Manchester United's youth ranks.

The case against Milinkovic-Savic

Balkan clubs are very often a source of great talent and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic cannot have gone unnoticed by big clubs - his brother, Vanja certainly did not. There has to be a concern, however slight, that Sergej did not take the fancy of major clubs earlier in his career. This might have something to do with the fact that he is remarkably tall for a midfielder, standing at 1.92m, and this makes him look a little awkward and ungainly on the field. Signing a player off the back off a successful international youth tournament brings its own dangers also. Lazio signed Ogenyi Onazi and Emmanuel Sani after a Nigerian U17 World Cup win, and while Onazi has gone on to greater things at Lazio, Sani has been recently let go by a fourth division Swedish side, as he could not establish himself in their team. Milinkovic-Savic's club form is good enough to suggest his career will not head in that direction, but the transfer fee is almost certainly well above his current value, and that will put pressure on the Serbian to perform above his own level from day one.
Author: Cathal Mullan
 
 
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