One week since the Argentine’s reintegration into the Aquile line-up, Goal.com’s Lazio expert looks at the effect Cristian Ledesma is having on the rest of the side…
With the reintegration of former outcast Cristian Ledesma just over a week ago, it seems Lazio have now finally come full circle. After Fabio Firmani and Guglielmo Stendardo were reinstated back in December, it was only a matter of time before a third outcast would be drafted back in a bid to rescue the troubled Aquile.
When yours truly predicted back at the time how a rebel renaissance could help Lazio avoid the drop, nobody could have imagined the extent at which one former outcast would provide such an instant transformation to the Biancocelesti’s game.
As he was handed the first team strip in the build up to last weekend’s clash against Parma, Ledesma reportedly broke down into tears such was his joy at having overcome eight months in the shadows. What was to come next was a performance that few could have envisaged, given the Argentine’s lack of match practice.
The 27 year old provided an instant boost for a side which, just seven days earlier, had fallen to a 1-0 defeat in the relegation head-to-head against struggling Catania.
Against Parma the Biancocelesti finally looked like a team again. Their often comical backline appeared far more assured with the protection of the Argentine deep in midfield. The usually isolated forwards were in touch with their teammates, as the distance between the three departments was greatly reduced by new coach Edy Reja.
Ledesma has always been a dynamic, concrete, and essential player since his arrival at Formello nearly four years ago. He may not possess the pinpoint accuracy of Juan Sebastian Veron or the international experience of Esteban Cambiasso, but he remains the only man for the job when it comes to keeping Lazio's engine turning over.
Given the fact even league leaders Inter were willing to invest almost €10m for his services this January despite his lengthy period of inactivity; there can be no denying that few sides across Europe could afford to deprive themselves of a player with such versatility.
Taking a closer look at the statistics, even the figures speak in favour of the South American who finally celebrated his 100th league appearance for the Biancocelesti during last weekend’s victory.
From his arrival back in the summer of 2006 to the present day, Lazio have contested 128 games in all competitions, obtaining 58 victories, 33 draws and 37 defeats. The Aquile have amassed 207 points, at a ratio of 1.61 per game, with Ledesma in the side.
Comparing these figures to the performances without the services of the Argentine, the results speak for themselves. During 46 encounters without Ledesma, Lazio have obtained 13 victories, 14 draws and 19 defeats, at a ratio of 1.15 points per game.
After getting his adventure on the Biancocelesti bench off to the best possible start, new coach Reja didn’t hesitate to laud Ledesma for his contribution in the morale boosting victory against the Ducali.
“Ledesma is on another level,” Reja declared to SkySport shortly after the final whistle. “Even with his condition at 50 percent he is a player who can make the difference.”
As the relegation dogfight starts to hot up, the points are becoming even more precious given the number of sides congested in the lower half of the standings. With the Biancocelesti finally looking like a convincing unit for the first time since early September, Ledesma’s presence will undoubtedly prove a blow to the opposition who were starting to take the Biancocelesti’s ‘political choices’ for granted.
With the future of Lazio now finally top of the agenda inside the gates of Formello, it seems all parties have put their issues aside momentarily and allowed common sense to prevail. Given the Argentine has always been a guarantee for the Aquile, there is no doubting that from now until the end of the season, facing the Biancocelesti will certainly be a much tougher prospect thanks to his presence in the middle of the park.