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With the departures of Antonio Candreva and Miroslav Klose, the time has come for Brazilian Felipe Anderson to up his game and take on the star role at Lazio.

Felipe Anderson is one of the many young stars to come out of the Santos academy, a system that had bred the likes of Neymar, Gabigol and Robinho.

The 23-year-old has immense ability, a skill-set that is destined to translate over a long successful career. However, lately, Anderson has struggled to make the developmental leap after such a promising opening chapter to his Lazio career. But, with some key components of the club having left for greener pastures this summer, Felipe Anderson’s time has come to be “the guy” in Rome.

Felipe Anderson made his arrival to the Italian capital in June 2013 from Santos for an estimated €7.5 million. Initially, he was supposed to swap Brazilian football for Italian calcio that January but the move failed due to the tardiness of a fax to finalize. Nonetheless, Lazio managed to land Anderson before Spanish and English giants could swoop in.

The Laziali knew they had acquired one of South America’s most sought after jewels, but were a bit unclear on how quickly he could impact the club under Stefano Pioli.

In his first season with Lazio, Anderson did not feature all that much playing in just thirteen league matches, collecting two assists. His lack of playing time and output likely raised some eyebrows amongst the supporters, but those skeptics were silenced in his sophomore season in Italy.

The 2014-15 campaign saw Anderson put it all on display for the Champions League hopeful. He transitioned the trademark Seleção flair over to Europe, dazzling in 32 league matches with an impressive 10 goals and eight assists. This breakthrough alerted Europe’s biggest clubs last summer.

At the young age of 22, Felipe Anderson became one of modern football’s rising stars. The question was could president Claudio Lotito reject all advances for the Brazilian and make him the focal point of the Lazio attack?

Fresh off a third-place finish, Felipe Anderson and Lazio entered the 2015-16 season with high hopes of advancing to the group stages of the Champions League while also battling for domestic hardware as well. Unfortunately for them and the sake of the Italian coefficient, Lazio disappointingly bowed out of the qualification phase, losing 3-1 on aggregate to Bayer Leverkusen. Last season was a miserable one for the capital club on virtually all fronts. They finished in eighth, took a massive step backwards and failed to live up to the pre-season hype of being a dark-horse contender for the Scudetto; a Round of 16 exit to Sparta Praha in the Europa League added to insult.

As for Anderson, his showing was a bit inconsistent despite what his statistics indicate. In thirty-five Serie A matches, he tallied 7 goals and five assists, numbers more or less in line what most projected of him. However, four of his seven goals were collected before November. Whether supporters expected more or not is unclear, but if you asked the player himself, you bet he wishes he could have done more to help the cause.

In the midst of this season, Lazio were still receiving calls on Anderson, mostly from Manchester United. The English club, who the Express reported had an £37.6m (€50m) bid turned down the summer prior, were pegged to land the Brazilian. In fact, Lotito publicly admitted to Calciomercato this past February that “Felipe Anderson will move to Manchester United next season for €60m.” Yet, as it stands, it seems like the Brazilian dynamo will stay on for at least another season. Now we ask the question: Is he poised for a breakout comparable to, say, Lorenzo Insigne?

This summer, Lazio have been fairly active on the transfer front. Despite the controversy surrounding Marcelo Bielsa and the club, acting manager Simone Inzaghi has been given a few new faces to restore order inside Lazio camp. The club purchased Ciro Immobile from Sevilla, likely filling the vacant striker role left by Miroslav Klose. Filip Djordjevic, although serviceable, is injury prone and is unlikely to stay fit for a long season. Immobile gives Lazio a quality number nine with quite a bit of experience — and success — in Italy.

Up front, Inzaghi will likely field a three-man attack consisting of Felipe Anderson and 21-year-old Keita Balde out wide. The beauty, and perhaps luxury in having these two wingers around Immobile is that they provide a ton in terms of skill, creativity and upside.

MODENA, ITALY - MAY 08: (L-R) Felipe Anderson of SS Lazio competes for the ball with Fabrizio Poli of Carpi FC during the Serie A match between Carpi FC and SS Lazio at Alberto Braglia Stadium on May 8, 2016 in Modena, Italy. (Photo by Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images)

MODENA, ITALY – MAY 08: (L-R) Felipe Anderson of SS Lazio competes for the ball with Fabrizio Poli of Carpi FC during the Serie A match between Carpi FC and SS Lazio at Alberto Braglia Stadium on May 8, 2016 in Modena, Italy. (Photo by Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images)

Anderson is fully capable of playing on either wing or as an attacking midfielder. Inzaghi could hand the technically-gifted Brazilian a playmaking role from the left or right and let him use his vision to role in behind Immobile to link play. He is quite solid with both feet, quick in all aspects of the word and is predominantly known for being a fantastic dribbler. Occasionally, he has the tendency to hold onto the ball too long, but for many youngsters, it’s natural especially when you are as talented as he is. Anderson wears the number 10 for Lazio and that number may also be the ideal position for him moving forward.

There are very few things he can’t do on the pitch with a football at his feet, however some qualities are more advanced than others.

The Lazio attack still causes a bit of a concern. They sold star Azzurri winger Antonio Candreva to Inter, who leaves big shoes to fill. However, it now provides Anderson and even Balde the opportunity to really solidify themselves this season and instill excitement back at the Stadio Olimpico for Le Aquile.

All eyes are on Felipe Anderson. If you ask me, the key to the attack belongs to him and its time he turns it on for the Biancocelesti. A star must be born in Rome.


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