Welcome back to the Jersey Gallery! It’s been a minute hasn’t it? The last episode was published some 3 months ago back in June! Time flies so fast, at that time, we had just closed the curtain on the 2018-19 domestic season, and here we are, already one month into the 2019-20 campaign! Anyway, enough of the reminiscing; let’s get to work! In this episode, I go back further into my childhood; it was the year of 2000, I was 10 years old, and the combination of Championship Manager 2000/01 and watching Serie A with my brother brought this classic shirt and squad into my sights; I’m talking about the 2000/01 Lazio domestic home shirt!
THE STORY OF THE SEASON:
When I started really getting into season, it was around December 2000 maybe? I took an interest in Lazio because of their glorious home shirt, and also their incredible array of talent at the Roman club’s disposal that season. To set the scene, Sven Goran Eriksson had led ‘Le Aquile’ to their 2nd Serie A title at the conclusion of the 1999-2000 season in the most dramatic of circumstances! A waterlogged pitch at Perugia would see Juventus lose 1-0 to ‘I Grifoni’, while Lazio defeat Reggina; thus, gifting Lazio the title by 1 point! The defending champions would not rest on their laurels heading into the new campaign as Hernan Crespo was signed from Parma for world transfer record fee of £35 million! The Argentine would join an already talent littered that squad that boasted: Angelo Peruzzi, Sinisa Mihajlovic, Alessandro Nesta, Fernando Couto, Dino Baggio, Karel Poborsky, Diego Simeone, Pavel Nedved, Dejan Stankovic, Juan Sebastien Veron, Claudio Lopez (who also joined the club that summer), Marcelo Salas and Fabrizio Ravanelli!
Yet another roller coaster season began true to form, as Lazio defeated Inter Milan 4-3 to win the Supercoppa Italiana at the Stadio Olimpico. 4 days later, they would make their European bow as the flag bearers of Italy; drawn with Arsenal, Shakhtar Donetsk and Sparta Prague in the 1st Group Stage of the 2000/01 UEFA Champions League tournament. A fine 3-0 win away to Shakhtar would get the ‘Biancocelesti’ off to the best possible start to the competition. Before their Serie A campaign would start on October 1st, they would play twice more in the Champions League, defeating Sparta Prague 3-0, before losing to Arsenal 2-0 at Highbury on September 27th. Their defence of the title began away to newly promoted Atalanta, however the champions would be held to a stunning 2-2 draw in Bergamo! Hernan Crespo would get off the mark for his new employers in the 3-0 win over Perugia, however a defeat to Veron on match-day 3 left the club already 5 points behind city rivals Roma who topped the league. While the league campaign started less than ideally, the Champions League would see Lazio join Arsenal in the seeding for the 2nd Group Stage, where they would join Real Madrid, Leeds United and Anderlecht in Group D. Back to back wins in the league would get Lazio level with Juventus on 10 points apiece ahead of their November 12th meeting at the Stadio Delle Alpi. The match between the champions and runners up of the previous season ended 1-1 with Marcelo Salas scoring his first league goal, before another 1-1 draw unfolded with the struggling 1998-99 Serie A champions AC Milan.
The 2nd Champions League group phase would begin with a stunning 1-0 defeat away to Anderlecht, before a 2-0 defeat away to Parma in the league was made all the more painful, given that one of the makeweights in the Hernan Crespo transfer: Sergio Conceicao, got Parma on their way to the victory. November would also see Lazio’s defence of the Coppa Italia meet its demise following a 5-3 aggregate defeat to Udinese in the quarter finals. Crespo and Salas would score in back to back league games after the Parma defeat, however, a 1-0 defeat at home to Leeds on December 5th left their chances of reaching the quarter final of the Champions League in dire straits. Up next was the Derbi Della Capitale with Roma! The ‘Giallorossi’ were already 7 points clear of Lazio at the summit of the division, and when Roma secured the city bragging rights with a 1-0 win; Lazio’s Serie A title defence looked all but over before the turn of the new year! The 2000 portion of the season would end with a 2-1 victory away against Bari, and in spite of their inconsistent first half of the season; Lazio lay in 4th place with 21 points, and just 2 points adrift of 2nd place Juventus ahead of the new year.
Having already confirmed that he would be taking the vacant England managerial post back in October, Eriksson would resign from his position as Lazio manager following the disappointing 2-1 defeat away against Napoli on January 7th 2001, and in his place would come Dino Zoff for his 3rd stint as Lazio boss. There would be an immediate upsurge in results following the World Cup winner’s appointment, starting with a thrilling 4-3 win over Udinese in his first game back in charge on January 14th, a result that began a run of 8 unbeaten league games in row where they won 7 games of the 8. Crucially, Hernan Crespo would start to really take off following his world transfer record move; netting 7 goals in 4 games! The wins over: Udinese, Inter Milan, Fiorentina and Lecce lifted Lazio to 3rd, and just 6 points behind Roma at the halfway stage of the season. A goalless draw with Atalanta, would be followed up by a cruel 3-2 defeat away against Real Madrid in the Champions League, would set the stage for a another 3 match win streak in the league, and the high of their Champions League 2nd phase Group Stage would come as they drew at home with Real Madrid, and defeated Anderlecht, however by this point, they were mathematically unable to reach the quarter final, however they would end their campaign with a thrilling 3-3 draw away against Leeds United on March 14th.
The first defeat of the Zoff-era would come on March 11th as his team fell 2-0 away against Bologna, however, on March 18th, the defending Champions would defeat Juventus 4-1 at the Stadio Olimpico, however, that amazing win would be followed up by a 1-0 defeat to AC Milan; a result that allowed Juve’ to open up a 3 point gap ahead of Lazio. 3 straight wins ahead of the Rome Derby on April 29th, would leave Lazio 7 points behind Fabio Capello’s side, could there be an unlikely late title charge from the champions? Anything less than a win, and the answer was unlikely no, and while the game with Roma ended 2-2; Dino Zoff’s side could hold their heads high, having come from 2-0 down, to salvage a point in a dramatic derby. Excellent wins over: Bari, Napoli and Udinese would propel Lazio to 2nd place, and the gap was now just 5 points that separated them and Roma at the top, however there would be the tricky task of an away fixture with Inter Milan next to come.
Hernan Crespo’s goal looked at but set to gift the ‘Biancocelesti’ a fourth straight win, however a 90th minute Stephane Dalmat wonder-strike would see the game end 1-1 at the San Siro, and with just 2 games left to play, 2nd place was likely as good as it was going to get for Lazio. Regrettably, the draw would come on the same weekend were Roma themselves would draw with AC Milan, had Lazio won, the gap would have been reduced to 3 points! More worryingly however, was that Juventus had reclaimed 2nd place, meaning Lazio would need to rely on Juventus to drop points in order to finish 2nd. Lazio would beat Fiorentina 3-0, and Juventus would beat Venezia by the same scoreline, and as Roma would draw 2-2 with Napoli; there would be a 3 horse race for Scudetto honours on the final day of the season! In the end, Lazio would be beaten 2-1 by Lecce, and thus, a truly bitterly disappointing final day of the season would see Juventus finish 2nd, and Roma winning the title, while Lazio and Dino Zoff had to settle for 3rd place. It would be a bittersweet ending to the season on a person level for the likes of Hernan Crespo and Juan Sebastian Veron, with Crespo’s incredible 2001 form saw him win the Golden Boot following a 26 goal haul; 21 of which came in the 2001 portion of the season! Veron however, would be amidst the series of players involved in passport controversies in Serie A, and subsequently left the club that summer to join Manchester United.
MY MEMORIES OF THE SHIRT:
Ahhh…Writing that brought back those memories being 10 years old and playing Championship Manager in my sitting room, while Gazzetta Italia was on in the background! I really got hooked into the season from around maybe March or February 2001, and truth be told, at that stage of my life, my main exposure to SS Lazio on the television was when they beat Manchester United to win the UEFA Super Cup in 1999, so all in all, it was that classic home shirt made by Puma that season which was what made me side with the Roman outfit for that season. The oh so cool shade of blue; not so bright that it was offensive, but more of a duskier blue, while the collar, and black and white accents combined spectacularly to create on of my favourite ever football shirts. In addition, the Siemens Mobile sponsor only added to the grandeur of the shirt, rather than took away from it. I am fortunate enough to own the home shirt, I sourced one in 2012 I believe, and needless to say, I was elated! Now I just need to source the Real Madrid home shirt from the same season, and my 10 year old dreams would have become reality!
The shirt really needs to be seen to be believed, as we speak, I am wearing mine and the material is so robust yet comfortable, you real feel the quality of the garment, and the felt sponsor does not feel weighty at all. For an early 2000’s football shirt, Puma really did craft one of their more underrated templates, and I’d even go so far as to say (and I’m sure Arsenal and Newcastle fans would agree) that it a country mile better than many of their more recent designs. While the Lazio bubble burst following their failed title defence; their squad remains as one of the most talent rich ever assembled, especially when you consider just how damn good the likes of: Nesta, Nedved, Veron and Crespo were at that stage of their respective careers. Moreover: Peruzzi, Sensini, Couto, Mihajlovic, Poborsky, Simeone, Salas and Ravanelli; while past their best years, were legends for their country’s (well in Ravanellli’s case, definitely a Middlesbrough legend!), while Claudio Lopez, Marcelo Salas, Dino Baggio, Poborsky and Simone Inzaghi (just by association) were household names during this era too.
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