Lazio president fears player exodus
Lazio president Claudio Lotito fears an exodus of players this summer if the club's fans do not bring an end to their protests.
The Curva Nord of the Stadio Olimpico is to remain empty for the rest of the season as fans there boycott matches out of protest of Lotito's running of the club. They have called on him to step down as club president, threatening not to return to the stadium until he leaves. That situation is now affecting the players, according to Lotito, who says some of the first-team squad have already approached him to request a transfer.
"The players are asking me if they can leave," he said. "They've had enough of this hostile atmosphere."
The midweek defeat to Genoa has left the Biancocelesti six points adrift of the top five and a berth in the Europa League next season. Without any European football to offer to the players, and with the fans abandoning the side, Lotito fears he has few arguments to keep hold of his club's key players this summer.
"Honestly, some of them cannot take it any longer," he said at a conference on 'Ethics, Sport and Deontology' at Rome’s Lumsa University. "That's the best way to sum it all up. It’s not that players don't want to come to Lazio, it's that those who are here want to leave.
"They don't have any problems with the club, it's completely different -- one of them said 'president, I'm not enjoying myself anymore and it's becoming a problem'. Even for them, living in a climate like this is causing problems, and these are supposed to be the acts of fans who want what's best for Lazio?
"I'm talking about the atmosphere around the club. It's not created by fans, because the term 'fans' is abstract. Within this category, there are people who behave correctly and those who do not conform with what should be the rules. I think the Lega should take a clear stance on this in the near future."
Meanwhile, fans from the Curva Nord have declared they will not be returning to the stadium for the rest of the season. Furthermore, they have called on all Lazio fans like themselves to desert the Stadio Olimpico for Lazio's remaining five home matches, and to cancel their subscriptions to pay-TV, reasoning that they will no longer watch games while Lotito is president.
Lazio have only three games away from home in the remaining eight, but after losing to Atalanta and drawing with AC Milan in front of a sparsely populated Olimpico, what might otherwise have been seen as an advantage to have so many games remaining at home could now be counterproductive.