Veteran strikers on a mission at Lazio
Eclipsed in recent times by their great Roman rivals, Lazio are anxious to emerge from the shadows. Proof of that has just come with the close-season acquisition of seven high-profile players, among them goalkeeper Federico Marchetti, an understudy to Gianluigi Buffon in the Italy team.
Yet it is the arrival of seasoned strikers Miroslav Klose and Djibril Cisse that has caught the eye, an indication of the ambition of club president Claudio Lotito to restore I Biancazzurri’s footballing fortunes now that he has addressed their financial obligations. FIFA.com assesses the arrival of these two experienced goalgetters in Serie A.
Fires still burns for Klose, Cisse
With 61 goals in 109 international appearances, Miroslav Klose is a legend in German football. Now 33, and having come to the end of his contract with Bayern Munich, where he spent much of last season on the bench, Klose could understandably have called time on his exceptional career. Anxious not to end on a low note, however, Miro decided to seek a fresh challenge away from the Bundesliga, where he has played all his club football to date.
Despite interest from several teams, it was Lazio who benefited from his decision to make a career change. “It’s a very interesting team, a sensible mix of very promising youngsters and experienced players,” he said. “I’m delighted to be taking part in this adventure and I’m convinced that we’ll be able to fight for the title with this team.
“The club is on a sound footing and Rome is a wonderful city,” added the prolific German forward before touching on his departure from Bayern Munich and his continuing desire to succeed: “My leaving Bayern had nothing to do with my relationship with [Louis] Van Gaal. It wasn’t an easy time but it’s over. I’m here now, at an ambitious club that, like me, has a hunger to win.”
Three years Klose’s junior, Djibril Cisse has also received a warm welcome to the Italian capital. “I am extremely motivated,” said the Frenchman, whom coach Edy Reja has already dubbed La Bestia (The Beast), the nickname also used by Brazilian forward and former Roma star Julio Baptista. “It’s a new challenge for me, undoubtedly the most important of my career so far,” he continued. “I’m curious to see how I’m going to do against the formidable defences of Serie A.”
Lazio is Cisse’s sixth club, the France international having previously made stops at Auxerre, Liverpool, Marseille, Sunderland and then Panathinaikos, where he twice ended seasons as the Greek league’s top scorer. His love affair with the Pana fans having come to an end, he now has new goals to pursue at Lazio.
“I scored a lot of goals in Greece over the last two seasons but some people no doubt think the standard of the championship was not high enough,” he said. “That’s one of the reasons why I came to Italy, because Serie A is one of the toughest leagues in Europe. I’m not dead yet and I’m definitely still alive for the national team. If I can perform well in Serie A, then there’s no way France can keep overlooking me.”
Though a player of proven quality, Cisse has amassed only 40 caps since making his international debut in May 2002, scoring nine goals in the process, with his last appearance coming in the damaging defeat to the host nation at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™.
In between time Cisse suffered his fair share of disappointments with Les Bleus, including their first-round exit at Korea/Japan 2002, his absence from UEFA EURO 2004 through suspension and then Germany 2006 through injury, and his failure to make the squad for EURO 2008.
A formidable front line
New strike partner Klose is convinced of Cisse’s qualities: “He’s a great player who has always done well for his clubs. He’s an excellent signing and I’m sure we’ll strike up a good understanding.”
The venerable duo will be teaming up with the Argentinian Mauro Zarate, who scored nine goals for Lazio last season and provided seven assists, while 26-year-old Brazilian playmaker Hernanes will hope to provide them with the bullets and earn himself another chance with A Seleçao after his sending-off in the February friendly against France.
Klose is already warming to his task, scoring five goals in 40 minutes against amateur side Cadore in Lazio’s first pre-season warm-up game, with he, Cisse and Zarate all getting on the scoresheet in another friendly against Union Ripa. “They can find each other with their eyes closed already,” said a delighted Reja.
The Lazio tifosi will be hoping the trio can maintain their telepathic understanding during the course of the new season and emulate the 2001 glory days of Claudio Lopez, Hernan Crespo and Pavel Nedved, another Biancoazzurri triumvirate well versed in the ways of goalscoring.