Following Lazio’s impressive win over Napoli, there was a worrying continuation of the trends seen in the media since the season start. A two – nil home victory against Napoli, for any of the northern teams, would have surely been proclaimed as a show of incredible strength, and a sign that said team was an absolute contender for the scudetto. The treatment Lazio received was quite different.
Napoli’s coach Walter Mazzarri predictably complained about the officiating after the match, as he regularly does whenever his team loses, but even more alarming and insulting was the lack of attention paid to Lazio on Italian television. Yes, the Milan derby was a big match, and it resulted in AC Milan going back into first place. And yes, Juventus – Roma was also a big match, and Juventus will always command an inordinate amount of media attention. But Lazio had put in one of the best performances all year, by any Serie A team. Napoli is very strong this season, and they had won their last four consecutive road matches. That Lazio not only beat them, but beat them soundly, should absolutely have been a topic for discussion.
La Domenica Sportiva, Italian state broadcaster RAI’s Sunday night calico talk show, did not show the Lazio match highlights until over an hour into the broadcast, during which time they spoke exclusively about the Milan derby, and about Juve-Roma (Claudio Ranieri was a guest in the studio, and he actually turned red when he was exposed as the hypocrite we all know him to be). When it finally did come time to talk about Lazio, all of two minutes were given to the team (a mix of faint praise and incredulity), before they quickly moved on to discuss Pastore and Di Natale’s hat-tricks. Controcampo, Mediaset’s answer to the RAI show, was even worse, completely ignoring the team.
Salvation comes in the regular Monday night appointment with Lazialita in TV. There, and only there, does Lazio get the uninterrupted two and half hours it deserves. Last night there were two matches to discuss, with the unusual mid-week game against Cesena, but there was only one topic on everyone’s minds: Mauro Zarate. To say that Mauro, despite his struggles last year, still generates an incredible amount of passion and excitement in Lazio supporters in a dramatic understatement. A slightest rumor of a January transfer had been mentioned (in the aftermath of the Cesena match), and it was enough dominate the conversation.
Opinions varied from the cautious, “He must prove himself by the end of this season,” and, “no other forward would be so loved after only scoring twice so far,” to the more common, “he is a symbol of the team and must be given time to grow,” and, “if he returns to the form we saw in his first year at Lazio, we can contend for the scudetto.” The one thing everyone absolutely agreed upon was the need to keep Zarate in the middle for the next match against Parma, to see if this different position really makes the difference for him.
And there you have it, from the people who know Lazio best. They know the potential of this team, and they realize how important and impressive their performance was against Napoli. The only questions left are how high can Lazio fly, and who can compete with Lazio when Zarate is on form?