Serie A Story – Lazio

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Lazio was originally founded as the Societa Podistica Lazio, or Lazio Track and Field Club on January 9, 1900 in the elegant Prati district of Northern Rome. The clubs nine original members wanted to embrace a wider area of Rome so chose the name Lazio to represent the region in which the city was located. Soon after their foundation a member of Racing Club de Paris first introduced Football to the club therefore making it the oldest active in the capital and one of the oldest throughout the Peninsula. Lazio then went on to be one of the most prominent clubs in Italian Football enjoying success both domestically and in Europe.

Since the clubs commencement, the Biancocelesti have been a well organized and structured club that even in its earliest days had a strong sense of pride. This was evident by the fact they were the only major Roman club to have resisted the fascist regime attempts to join up all the cities teams in what would eventually become La Aquile’s greatest rivals Roma the same year.

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Lazio’s first competitive Serie A season was in 1929 where they were led by legendary Italian striker, Silvio Piola, considered by many to be the inventor of the bicycle kick. They finished 15th. The next few years saw the Aquilotti heighten their influence in the top flight of Italian Football with the Hungarian-Italian Tactician Giuseppe Viola leading them to second in 1937- the clubs highest pre-war finish.

After the culmination of the Second World War Lazio struggled to retain the form they had before the disruption of war, the 1958 Coppa Italia the only highlight of the decade. Things got worse from then on. Three years after their cup triumph the Aquile was relegated to Serie B for the first time in the clubs history. After a painful two year absence the club returned back to the top flight and posted a decent mid-table finish. Overall it’s sufficient to say that the swinging Sixties were not the best times in the clubs illustrious history.

The Seventies did not start too brightly either as The Eagles dropped to Serie B after a disappointing 1970/71 campaign. After a decade hopping between Serie A and Serie B the club finally managed to find consistency. The start of the 1973-74 season saw a new Lazio and the fondly-remembered glory years had begun with the legendary names of manager Tomasso Maestrelli, and the Cardiff-raised Giorgio Chinaglia being key players. In the 1973/74 season Lazio finally did it. They won the Scudetto in a never-forgotten blaze of blue-and-white excitement which the city of Rome found itself enshrouded in. This period of time started to showcase the talents of the Biancocelesti as they were able to compete strongly with the top sides such as Milan and Juventus, announcing their status as a force to be reckoned with.

As ever with the capital side however, fortunes see-sawed. The following years saw the deaths of Maestrelli and more shockingly popular star Luciano Re Cecconi who was tragically shot dead in a jewellers shop in Rome after playing a joke on the shops owner pretending to be a robber. The events turned the club upside down and shook it to its foundations. As a consequence the club found itself in demise which continued throughout the next decade.

Coppalazio

The Eighties is an era Lazio fans will want to forget. Indeed it is considered by many Biancocelesti tifosi as taboo and hardly ever spoken of. The lowest point of the clubs history began when a betting scandal hit the club with allegations they were fixing their own matches. Subsequently they were forcibly relegated to Serie B. Three years were spent in the Peninsula’s second tier before they regained Serie A status in 1983, only narrowly avoiding relegation with a last-day escape. The tifosi were thinking the club had turned the corner, but the following season proved to be the most abysmal in the clubs history, finishing rock bottom with a woeful 15 points and recording only two wins. For a team that boasted the likes of Francesco Dell’Anno and Francesco Fonte, it was disappointing to say the least. The misery continued. In 1986 the club was hit with a nine-point deduction for another betting scandal, this time involving a solitary player, Claudio Vinazzini. The points deficit proved too much to overcome (especially in the days with only two points for a win) and for the fourth and final time the club found itself playing Serie B football. Even at that level the Biancocelesti struggled and narrowly avoided dropping to Serie C. The club needed a new sense of direction and their prayers were answered when Gianmarco Callero stepped forward to take up the reigns. Under his expert guidance the club returned to Serie A in 1988 solidifying Lazio back as a permanent top-flight team.

SvenGE

When Italian entrepreneur Sergio Cragnotti took over the clubs reigns in the early Nineties, questions were raised about his appropriateness as Lazio President, such were the concerns over his past controversies and whether he would be willing to invest sufficiently in the club. Those doubts were quashed however and Cragnotti went on to become the capital sides most successful President. He invested huge amounts of money and brought in some of the greatest players ever to have donned the light blue jersey. He acquired the likes of Juan Sebastian Veron for £18m, Christian Vieri for £19m and a record breaking signing of Hernan Crespo from Parma for £35m. These major signings were instrumental in guiding the Aquile to their best consecutive run of Serie A finishes, fifth in 1993, fourth in 1994, second in 1996 and another fourth place finish in 1997. More quality was to follow. Sinisa Mihajlovic, Pavel Nedved, Alessandro Nesta, Dejan Stankovic and Marcelo Salas were all brought in and under the guidance of Sven Goran Eriksson from Sampdoria, Lazio lifted their second Scudetto title in 2000. The Swede also guided the team to an Italian Cup triumph in the same year and with it became one of the most successful Biancocelesti Tacticians of all time after picking up the Coppa Italia in 1998 and clinching the last ever UEFA Cup Winners Cup in 1999.

Sadly though, the Biancocelesti could not hold on to their glory days without tragedy and controversy lurking around the corner. This time the club hit financial turmoil when Cragnotti’s business began to flail and the management were forced to sell many of their best players in order to balance the books. The club went steadily into decline. Their financial woes were compounded the following year after failing to claim a lucrative Champions League spot. This turned out to be the final straw for Cragnotti as he sold his share of the club in 2002 and with no willing buyers on hand the club was controlled by temporary financial managers. The players were unhappy with the position the club was in and an exodus ensued. Soon thereafter the club was sold to entrepreneur and current President, Claudio Lotito. His first move was to lower expenditure and released many of the clubs top earners. That Delio Rossi led a team of wily veterans and low earners to an unexpected UEFA Cup spot was little short of a master-class.

Disaster was once again waiting in the wings however, and not for the first time the club was dumped into Serie B for their part in a match-fixing scandal, although after an appeal were deducted an 11 point penalty the following Serie A season. Despite the deduction in points, le Aquile put together an astonishing Scudetto campaign with a third place finish.

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Looking to the present, the club has solid foundations and a nucleus forming with the likes of promising youngsters Mauro Zarate, Mourad Meghni and Lorenzo Di Silvestri. Along with veterans Tommaso Rocchi, Goran Pandev and Sebastiano Siviglia they have the quality to compete for a place in Europe and if they can avoid further controversy look to be on the rise. Just recently however, Lotito was found guilty of alleged share-rigging and could face up to 20 months in jail. Will history repeat itself?

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