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 By Ben Gladwell

Marcelo Bielsa fallout sparks fan protests against Lazio president

An estimated 5,000 Lazio fans took to the streets on Wednesday to protest about how Claudio Lotito is running the club after he bungled the appointment of Marcelo Bielsa and blamed city rivals Roma of working against them.

Animosity towards the Biancoceleste club president has been rife for many years now, but the way the failed appointment of Bielsa was handled prompted a large gathering to protest in the Italian capital.

Lotito defended his actions and accused Roma's sporting director Walter Sabatini of sabotaging their attempt to appoint Bielsa.

"Exactly -- he called Bielsa to make sure he didn't come," Lotito told La Repubblica. "It's a friend of his, after all. He told him 'Lotito's unreliable'. [Juan Sebastian] Veron did the same, for example."

When shown a video of Roma captain Francesco Totti laughing about Bielsa's decision not to join, Lotito added: "I don't know what he's laughing about -- Roma don't have a club and they don't have any money, you'll see."

Roma's reply came in two Tweets from their president James Pallotta, who laughed off Lotito's accusation.

"I love this guy," Pallotta wrote. "Makes me laugh. It's like belonging to the joke of the month club. But I feel terrible for #Lazio supporters who deal with this daily. They deserve better."

Lotito has since appointed Simone Inzaghi as his club's coach, claiming that he was always his first choice solution from the very beginning.

"I got it wrong," Lotito said. "Everybody was telling me 'give the fans something to dream about, bring in a bit of enthusiasm'. But Lotito doesn't sell dreams, he sells reality. Inzaghi was the first choice and I only tried to get Bielsa to make the fans happy."

In the end, Lotito said he is quite happy that the deal with Bielsa fell through, as he revealed some of the particularities of what the Argentinian had demanded.

"I'm not going to reveal the figures, but there were like a thousand clauses," Lotito said. "He wanted to be paid in U.S. Dollars, and I had to cover any fluctuations in the exchange rate. Fine. If the taxation laws in Italy were to change, I had to cover the difference. Ok.

"Five flights in first class for Argentina for him and his staff. Five mobile phones -- 'Claudio, I spend two to three hours on the phone to Argentina every day...' unlimited calls. I accepted. Five-star hotel, always. I told him 'Marcelo, when you came to Rome I put you in my own hotel, which is a four-star superior -- did you have a bad time?' He said: 'It was great'. But he insisted -- five stars. Fine.

"Then there's the story about the statues -- the ones to simulate a wall for free-kicks. Bielsa said he wanted the German ones. Why? What's wrong with the Italian ones? They're the same - they're just pieces of plastic. No -- German ones. I ordered them -- they cost three times as much as the Italian ones. El Loco sticks to his values, well I can tell you what those values are..."

Ben Gladwell reports on Serie A, the Italian national team and the Bundesliga for ESPN FC, UEFA and the Press Association. @UEFAcomBenG.


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