It’s not easy to achieve star-man status at Lazio these days. There’s a lot of heavy traffic in front of anyone looking to take that tag. Ciro Immobile and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic have become totemic figures for the club over recent years and continue to hoover up most headlines.
But at this rate, the nimble, dancing figure of Mattia Zaccagni will soon be racing up behind the illustrious pair in the fan-favourite stakes.
The Italy international has quietly been producing the most consistent and productive form of his career in Serie A this season.
Of all the wingers in the division, only Khvicha Kvaratskhelia and Rafael Leao could really argue they have outshone the Lazio man so far.
Asked if Zaccagni should now be regarded as the best Italian winger out there, Maurizio Sarri said: “I don’t know. He’s important for us and now he is in good condition mentally.
“He feels confident. I’m expecting double figures from him, otherwise it’s a waste of his talent.”
Zaccagni: A constant menace
Zaccagni was the beating heart of Lazio’s attacking display against Midtjylland on Thursday, demonstrating his ability to bamboozle and disorientate defenders.
The Biancocelesti got off to a rocky start, conceding early to bring back some unwelcome memories of the 5-1 thrashing they suffered in Denmark just over a month earlier.
But it was Zaccagni who got the Aquile out of their rut, as they eventually kicked into life thanks to the winger’s carnage-creating forays down the left wing.
The Italian’s name wasn’t on the scoresheet at the end of the game, but he was crucial to launching a comeback that has revived Lazio’s Europa League hopes.
Zaccagni was relentless, driving at defenders, peppering in shots and getting to the byline for dangerous cut-backs. It was his energetic and bold directness that led to both goals.
He was also only denied a goal of his own by a fine save from Jonas Lossl, who managed to paw the forward’s strike onto the crossbar early in the second half.
It was a fine display from a player who has become more decisive than ever this season.
“I think this is the best period of my career, these are the kinds of performances I need to be producing. I’m trying to find consistency in every match,” Zaccagni said after the game.
“The coach is giving me a lot. He’s improved me in a lot of aspects, but above all mentally.”
Zaccagni is more productive than ever under Sarri
It’s worth remembering that Zaccagni arrived at Lazio late last season.
He began the campaign at Verona, playing the opening two games of the season with the Gialloblu, before making the switch to Rome late in the transfer window.
Zaccagni therefore missed an important pre-season where Sarri began to teach the team his methods and oversee a transition in style from Simone Inzaghi’s more direct 3-5-2 system.
A couple of injuries early on also damaged Zaccagni’s chances of making a quick impact, but he soon became a regular and finished the season with a respectable, if unspectacular, return of five goals and seven assists in 39 games.
Zaccagni is already well on track to beat those numbers this term; He already has four Serie A goals – equalling his total league tally from last season – and four assists.
But it’s not just the raw goal contribution figures that have improved, as WhoScored data shows that Zaccagni is averaging more shots and key passes per game now than he was in 2021/22 too.
He might not get the attention of an Immobile or a Milinkovic-Savic, never mind a Leao or Kvaratskhelia, but Zaccagni’s steadily-improving performances under Sarri have him heading for the best season of his career.
Double figures seems like a realistic expectation from his boss.