As Lazio continue to prepare for the summer training camp, and eventually next season, plenty of players are rumoured to arrive at or depart from the team at the moment. This text however, will not be a column on our transfer strategy or preferred players but rather a display of thoughts regarding a player that 18 months ago arrived and quickly became the key in the Serie A survival of 2009/2010 and effectively was bought outright last summer, only to find himself going from first to last choice amongst the attackers during the 2010/2011 season. What really happened last season, and why is it that Sergio Floccari is set to leave if Lazio brings in another attacker?
A quick rendezvous of Floccari’s career clearly shows that Sergio was never a prolific striker that made a name for himself through his goalscoring ability, but rather an attacker that could assist the team and also contribute with the odd goal every now and then. As a matter of fact, his largest tally of goals in one season (counting league games only) came in 2008/2009 when he scored 12 goals for Atalanta in Serie A and therefore his 8 goals in the last half of the 2009/2010 season for Lazio could be seen as the most successful period of his career in terms of goals. When contemplating these figures, one could easily ask whether we should see Floccari as a striker that is not netting enough goals to be seen as a regular starter, or if we should view him as a supportive striker that merits a place because of how much he aids others? The problem with the latter perspective is of course that Lazio has lacked anyone that could partner Sergio upfront and get around 20 goals and make Floccari stand out as the perfect complement in an attacking line – but with the arrival of Klose and the possibility of Cisse being bought as well, Sergio could be a perfect player to have in the team.
To be able to cast light on the Vibo Valentia son’s status within the team, one has to take into perspective the other attackers that are available and how he works with them. Not long after Sergio's arrival from Genoa, Edy Reja stated that his best attacking partnership consisted of Rocchi and Floccari – a comment that very much sidelined Mauro Zarate who apparently could not work well with any of the mentioned partners. Many Lazio supporters have questioned why Mauro and Sergio have never really got the chance to play together, especially as Rocchi and Zarate had shown very little success together earlier. Delio Rossi, Davide Ballardini and Edy Reja have all mentioned the weakness of employing number nine and ten together and therefore Sergio, at the time, was the perfect addition. During the 2010/2011 season the partnership of Zarate – Floccari could have been employed as Rocchi spent most of the season injured, but when Reja did use the duo, it was very rarely as a centrally positioned duo but rather, Zarate was forced out to the left or right wing and therefore the partnership of the two was never thoroughly tested. Also a partnership with the youngster Libor Kozak, who interestingly enough seems to have a more secure spot in the team than Floccari, has not been tested and yet Sergio’s time with Lazio is rumoured to be reaching its end. With the arrival of Miroslav Klose, who reportedly chose Lazio because Reja promised him the opportunity to be a regular starter, the odds of Floccari being a regular for Lazio in the coming season are not in his favour and the pairing of Zarate and the German seems the most likely at the moment, especially taking into consideration that the relationship between Mauro and Edy has developed for the better as time has passed. As last season progressed, Reja put more and more faith in the Argentinian to lead the attacking line of the team, and despite being fit and ready, Sergio never really came back into the fold after one of his numerous injury absences. Towards the end of the season, all attackers became available, which resulted in the Mister choosing the earlier condemned partnership of Zarate and Rocchi over the other alternatives – a partnership that surprisingly worked out fairly well and nailed Floccari to the bench. Considering that it was Kozak that emerged as the super-sub of the season, Sergio no longer had any given position within the team, even though he did score eight goals in 25 appearances – only beaten by Hernanes and Zarate in the internal standings.
If that was not enough as to force Floccari down the pecking order, another ex-Genoa player that was taken off of the bench in Genoa and introduced into Lazio made life even harder. Giuseppe Sculli had a quick and positive impact on the team. In a game against Palermo, he impressed with a brace and secured three vital points that kept Lazio in the hunt for European football. Sculli replaced Zarate on a few occasions and when the two previous Genoa players got to play together it worked relatively well and amongst other things, it showed that Floccari could be very useful together with the right player. As the season went on however, the Argentinian took back his starting spot in the team and it was Sergio that had to be sidelined once again.
Taking into consideration the fact that Floccari, or his agent, rarely comments on the player’s situation it is hard to know what the once glorified player thinks about the past season or his future at Lazio. Other people involved, such as Igli Tare and Claudio Lotito, have repeatedly confirmed that Miroslav Klose was not to be seen as the last addition of quality to the attack this summer. Both of them have confirmed Djibril Cisse as being an alternative that is being discussed and the latest reports claim the French striker will be signed soon. If that is not enough, the media keep promoting Alberto Gilardino as a potential target for the Rome based outfit. No matter who is mentioned, the reports that follow are always that it is Sergio Floccari’s departure that is imminent, and it has been Parma that has often been mentioned as the next stop for the striker. Valued at €10 million the option of going to Parma feels very unlikely though, as the club have not got the funds to buy the player. Another option is to add Zaccardo into the deal, a player that could fit perfectly in Lazio as Stephan Lichsteiner is close to Juventus and Lazio will need to strengthen the backline, but as the Parma defender is valued at around €5 million it would mean an addition of a hefty sum for them to be able to get Floccari in any case. Unfortunately, none of the involved have officially stated what could possibly happen to Floccari if another attacker is added to the team, yet everyone takes it for granted that Sergio would be the one to depart.
When weighing up the various alternatives, it becomes increasingly hard to decide on which option would be the best for Lazio as not all of the pieces are in place yet, but with what we know today based on official statements and current additions and departures, Floccari’s 'to be or not to be' is one of the most interesting decisions that needs to be made this summer. Taking all of the above into consideration though, I definitely see the departure of Floccari as the worse alternative at hand. If Lotito fails to pull off another trademark deal (as the one that saw us get paid well above the value of Kolarov last summer, or the one that will see us get above €10 million for Lichsteiner) and get a sum well above the value of the 29 year old, I think the presence of Sergio would complement the other attackers we have more than adequately. The fact that he has been last in the pecking order of late is more reflective of the chosen formation and conservative mindset of Edy Reja that very much came into being during the latter part of last season than the skills and the usefulness of the striker. The option of Rocchi - Floccari as the fourth alternative would signal to other teams that Lazio are to be taken seriously in the coming season. If the partnership that 18 months ago was the first choice for the manager today would be seen as the fourth pairing upfront, then the improvement that Lazio has undergone in the last year and a half becomes very concrete and remarkable. The kind of player Sergio Floccari represents today is a scarcity in modern football, and despite everyone knowing that players want to play on a regular basis, the 29 year-old never aired his mistrust through the media and neither has he asked for a move. The fact that Lazio paid around €8 million to release him from Genoa shows that the club, one year ago, believed in Floccari and saw him as an instrumental figure in the new Lazio. If the club wants to be involved in the hunt for trophies and top positions, a player of his quality is exactly what we need to keep.
For me the best option at the moment would be to loan out Kozak to give the youngster some quality time on the pitch and see him develop as he is at a point of his career where playing regularly is needed in order to enhance his level. Sergio is soon turning 30 and is probably dying to show his worth, and considering the professional attitude shown in the last 18 months, a hungry Sergio Floccari is best utilized at Lazio, together with names such as Mauro Zarate, Miroslav Klose, Tommaso Rocchi and potentially Djibril Cisse. For the money that Floccari was brought on board for and for the salary he is on in addition to the quality that he possesses, it is hard to imagine any better deal than to keep the loyal attacker in the squad and hope he regains the form that saw him help us avoid relegation a year ago.