The question this text asks is whether a departure of the player is a disaster for the club, or should it be seen as a chance to collect some money and aim at a replacement? The option of Muslera sitting out his contract in order to leave on a free after the coming season is also possible, but one that would probably work out as destructive for both player and club.
In the shot-stoppers defence, he is not the first player facing problems when in negotiations with Lotito. Numerous players have left previously blaming the chairman for being too hard to deal with. After arriving to Lazio late in the summer of 2007, when the transfer of the preferred Juan Pablo Carrizo hit obstacles, not many knew who it was Lazio had found and brought over. With a fee of €3 million, a few other clubs in Europe looking for his signature and the fact that he had made a name in Nacional in South America showed the youngster had some potential. With a 44-year old Marco Ballotta on the bench, Muslera got his first game against Cagliari in September 2007, and after only conceding one goal and securing a win in his first game he found himself between the posts for four straight games after that.
In the fifth of those games came the first disastrous display for the Uruguayan. Lazio lost to Milan 1-5 and arguably four out of the five goals are to be blamed on minor or major blunders by the goalkeeper. The rest of the season he saw himself benched and appearing only in a handful more games in his first season. Many of the supporters at that point believed Muslera was too weak and was not up for the task of becoming the replacement of Angelo Peruzzi and when Carrizo eventually arrived Muslera’s position as second in line was cemented.
The 2008-2009 season started with Muslera on the bench and the newly arrived Argentinean Carrizo between the posts. The latter mixed good and bad displays, but after a few consecutive disappointing displays the situation between the player and management got tense and after reported conflicts the now 22-year old was back between the posts. During this season he did not only cement his position as number one, he also developed into a fan-favourite after some nice displays against top teams, and finally stopping Sampdoria from lifting the Coppa Italia trophy after saving two penalties and letting Lazio slot home the win.
Since the beginning, many have doubted Muslera’s talent, claiming he was too small and too weak to become the leader a good goalkeeper needs to be. Throughout the years with Lazio he has developed and has become more secure, but still makes point-costing mistakes. It is an old cliché that goal tending mistakes are usually disastrous, and it is his lack of ability to develop his game that has brought many of the Lazio supporters to somehow lose hope in Muslera blossoming into the first class player he sometimes turns out to be. His weakness in controlling the penalty area, weak positioning on crosses and attempts from far out and orchestrating the defence has cost Lazio quite a few goals and subsequently points this season and with other goalkeepers of his age turning into superstars and realising their talent, Muslera has very much continued to be good at what he has always been good at, but failed to improve other parts of his game. To be fair, on a few occasions this season he has won games for Lazio, but it is the mistakes in letting in goals in crucial games such as the derby that is what first springs to mind. How should Lazio react now that the player apparently wants out and the risk of starting all over with Carrizo back in goal is a not too farfetched reality?
During the World Cup of 2010 Muslera somehow got his international recognition as he was chosen first goalkeeper for a Uruguayan side that impressed and eventually finished fourth. Interestingly enough Muslera kept clean sheets for the first three games and was also decisive when saving two penalties against Ghana in the quarter finals after letting an easy goal in during the 90 minutes. However, it was when it mattered the most that Muslera choked. In the semi-final against the Netherlands three goals were let in, and if anyone is interested to study the weaknesses of Fernando Muslera it is the game for the bronze medal against Germany that should be studied as all three goals conceded could be seen as mistakes by the goalie.
Having had problems in developing his game to a standard where sloppy mistakes and easy mistimings are deleted, I argue that this summer is the right time to find a new replacement for us, and a new club for him. Having had his income raised to €1.4 million Muslera still did not prolong his contract with Lazio, and now with only one year left the agent is threatening the club by claiming Muslera will walk out on the free next year. Hopefully the time Nando has spent with Lazio has been worth more than walking out in shame, after all it is with us he has become well-known to many, but with potential replacements of higher quality than the Uruguayan standing in line Lazio could find a better option without having to deal with a player that only causes problems through his agent. Marchetti, the most attractive replacement rumoured in and one that could develop into a Lazio icon if everything works out and he is chosen a long term replacment, has already shown what qualities he holds and the only question mark surrounding his potential is how the one year without proper football has influenced his standard (interestingly enough, Muslera could end up with one full season without football if he refuses to sign a contract and does not find a new club during this summer before the season kicks-off). Berni, this season’s second choice, has claimed in reports that he is ready to stay, despite interest shown from other clubs, to fight for a starting spot. The once highly rated Carrizo still belongs to Lazio and despite River Plate of Argentina wanting to keep him, the economy of the Argentinean club will probably not let them buy the shot-stopper outright. Add to that rumours linking the 34-year old Storari of Juventus with us, and if that was not enough Sorrentino, the Lazio youth product, today 32 years-old and an integral part of Chievo Verona’s successful season, is mentioned as interested to fill the emptiness Muslera’s departure would leave. The Uruguayan is still popular amongst fans after celebrating under the Curva frequently, and with a famous picture holding a banner stating the hate for the other team of the Eternal City in front of fans at Formello he will never be forgotten. With a little more planned strategy on his carreer and a little further devotion to the club and the fans Fernando Muslera could have become a symbol for Lazio and been remembered forever as the icon that came to replace Angelo Peruzzi. Coming to Lazio at a young age, unknown to most and never having played for his national team, he became the starter of a team competing at the top of the league as well as making it to Europe and representing his native country in a World Cup never to be forgotten for the proud Uruguayans. At some point along the way Fernando Muslera seems to have forgotten what brought him to where he is today, and how he came to make a name of himself. He had all the chances in the world to develop his game, work on his weak and strong sides to become even better, and eventually been remembered as one of the best goalies in a line of good goalies that have represented this club.
For Lazio, it is better to start all over again and try to find a replacement a little later in his career and one that is ready to step up and become an integral part of an exciting team from day one. The Lazio management need to find a replacement that does not need a season or two to become a reliable starter, but rather one that is ready to join and become a protagonist straight away.
As for Fernando Nestor Muslera Micol there is not very much more to add; teams in England and Spain are apparently interested in bringing him over and in some of them he could get better paid and hopefully develop his game further. Thank you for the years and the memories but now is the time to GO!