The Underrated Excellence of Luis Alberto at Lazio
Beginning his career in Sevilla's lower ranks, Alberto has not had a career of stardom as he slowly rose through the ranks. Moving up the ranks, Alberto reached Sevilla's first team by the age of 19 and was loaned out to Barcelona B after one season.
He then returned and was bought by Liverpool for a fee of £7.2m at the beginning of the summer transfer window in 2013 before being loaned back out to Spain. Liverpool then sold Alberto on to Lazio in the summer 0f 2016 for half the price.
In his first season under Simone Inzaghi, the Spaniard picked up less than 400 league minutes, getting one goal and two assists. Alberto's fortunes changed rapidly this season, as did Lazio's.
The Serie A club finished the season with 72 points - their highest points tally since the 1999/2000 season - and scored a club record number of goals in one season. Despite this, they finished fifth, the same position as last season.
While their position in the league table did not change, the value of their players did drastically. Inzaghi took a squad consisting of mediocre players and players whose clubs no longer wanted them as well as a few stars and made them more than the sum of their parts.
Previous to the 2017/18 season, Alberto had not scored more than 10 goals in a season since 2012/13 when he was playing in the Spanish second tier for Barcelona B. Now, with Lazio, the forward has contributed to 33 goals in all competitions, consisting of 12 goals and 19 assists.
Luis Alberto is still just 25 years old. The Spaniard approaches his peak years and yet, not a sniff of interest has come from a more successful club. Alberto has played in the traditional Italian role of the trequartista. The word translates to 'three-quarters' from Italian.
It is also known as the false nine among other things. Originating in Italy, the position is considered extremely difficult as the role of the player changes from game to game. The trequartista acts as a link between the midfield and either the striker or wingers ahead of him.
Other such players who mastered this position were Diego Maradonna and the recently retired Francesco Totti. TransferMarkt currently value him at €35m and Alberto would do well to increase this.
His potential is hard to tell given he has succeeded when played as a specialist false nine, but it's worth a punt if a team feels that is what they need for next season. With very few teams playing a style that makes use of the Spaniard's skillset, demand would be low for his signature and may allow another team to purchase him on the cheap.
Operating between the opposition's defence and midfield, Alberto has become adept at creating space and crafting opportunities, evident in that Ciro Immobile finished as the third top scorer in Europe's top five leagues this season.
Alberto has proven himself this season, but the question is, can he do it again? The Spaniard has endured a rocky career so far, and there's nothing to say this wasn't a one-season wonder.
Players overperform in different systems very often such as Grzegorz Krychowiak under Unai Emery at Sevilla or Anderson under Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United. While Alberto has performed brilliantly in his role as a trequartista, this may be because of those around him.
Both Immobile and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic have experienced career-best seasons while Lucas Leiva has been a revelation for the side. Stefan De Vrij has also done an excellent job in defence but is leaving on a free to join league rivals, Internazionale.
With Milinkovic-Savic also possibly heading toward the exit door, it would be interesting to see how this would test the integrity of the side and whether the Spaniard could still perform at the same level.
His instability is his greatest weakness. No one knows how he will play next season and this will keep any club from going in for him at the price Lazio would demand. His failure to adjust to life in the Premier League could also rule him out of a move back to England.
The Spaniard can be lethal but only in the right system. Any deviation from this system has not yielded any positive results. Alberto has tried his hand in a many a system so far in his career but has only succeeded in one thus far.
While the former Barca man, albeit playing for the second team, has been linked to a return to the Catalan club, it is unlikely Alberto will be on the move any time soon. With a contract until the end of the 2021/22 season, it would cost a pretty penny for any club to pry the Spaniard away.
With the risk involved in purchasing him, this would be too dangerous for most clubs. According to TalkSport, Juventus want Inzaghi in the hypothetical situation that would see Max Allegri leave them but this is unlikely given he has committed his future to the club.
Inzaghi has done wonders with Alberto during his second season at the club, unlike any other manager he has featured under before. With such a record-breaking season for Lazio, it is unlikely they will reach these same heights next season.
Lazio has just lost their best defender in De Vrij. They may soon lose their best midfielder in the form of Milinkovic-Savic. If Alberto propels himself to the same heights next season, he will have proven himself to be an excellent trequartista indeed.