D-day looming for Zac, admits Cragnotti
Monday 29th April 2002
Lazio president Serio Cragnotti has given the broadest indication yet that coach Alberto Zaccheroni will be sacked should his side fail to clinch a Uefa Cup spot by beating Internazionale on Sunday.
"I hope that game won't be Zaccheroni's last on the Lazio bench," Cragnotti said.
Zaccheroni has failed to revitalise Lazio since replacing Dino Zoff in September and the pressure mounted still further on Sunday when defeat to Bologna cost the Biancoceleste a Champions' League place.
Lazio must now beat leaders Inter in the final game of the season to be sure of a Uefa Cup spot, but they will be up against it as Hector Cuper's side chase the win they need to clinch the Scudetto for the first time since 1989.
The Lazio tifosi are yet to take Zaccheroni to heart and his cause was not helped by the humiliating 5-1 derby defeat at home to Roma in March. More damning, however, has been Zaccheroni's feud with the club's medical staff who have refused to sanction the use of certain supplements since Jaap Stam was suspended for testing positive for nandrolone.
Zaccheroni believes his side have been physically handicapped by what he considers to be the medical team's ultra-conservative approach compared with some of Lazio's Serie A rivals.
Cragnotti, meanwhile, has urged Zaccheroni to find some common ground or his position will become untenable.
"Our coach must find a way of obtaining widespread support," he said. "And that includes amongst our supporters. Continuously changing the coach is not a good strategy for a club because so often the results get worse than they were before the change.
"For that reason I think Lazio will stick with this coach, but, of course, in football everything can change at any moment and sometimes you have to take sudden decisions."
As soon as Sunday perhaps.
"Our season has been really difficult, but now we have to get into the Uefa Cup to ensure we don't wipe out the good work we have done in recent years," Cragnotti said.
"Of course, we can't have the same motivation as Inter, who are fighting for the Scudetto and have played brilliantly all season, as have Roma and Juventus. I just hope that Lazio will show their professionalism and save the credibility of Italian football as well as the interests of our shareholders."
Who will be playing for Lazio next season should they reach the Uefa Cup is open for debate. Cragnotti has not ruled out wholescale changes and Zaccheroni's position is not the only one under threat.
"Something went wrong at the very beginning of the season," he said. "The balance of our squad broke down and I think some players lost their confidence.
"When I took charge of Lazio we changed 15 players and we could also do the same in the summer.
"I don't think that [Alessandro] Nesta and [Hernan] Crespo will go, but everything and everybody is under discussion and I want to see conviction from our star players as well. During the season we lacked character at all the key moments and this cannot continue. We are a public company and must defend our image."
Jaap Stam has already ruled out a move to Manchester City and on Monday Cragnotti insisted that there was no chance of the Holland international leaving in a swap deal that would see compatriot Edgar Davids move to the Stadio Olimpico from Juventus.
Cragnotti does, however, maintain more than a passing interest in former Biancoceleste favourite Juan Sebastian Veron.
"We want to keep our Dutch player as he will be part of our defence together with Nesta, Juan Pablo Sorin and Massimo Oddo next season. We'll try to get Juan Sebastian back, but it will be hard to convince Manchester United to release him."