S.S. Lazio boss Edoardo Reja described Miroslav Klose as "the best player I have ever coached" after the 33-year-old Germany striker's outstanding display in Sunday's 1-0 victory against Parma FC at the Stadio Olimpico.
The win – along with the postponement of the SSC Napoli-Juventus game due to the wet weather – allowed Lazio to jump to the top of Serie A, level on points with Udinese Calcio. It may not be uncharted territory, but it is arguably the first time since the 1999/2000 season that their fans have had serious reason for optimism in the Scudetto race.
Lazio were considered distant title underdogs at the beginning of term, even if the arrival of high-profile players such as Klose and Djibril Cissé, together with the continued development of Hernanes, Cristian Ledesma and Stefano Mauri, raised the quality of last year's crop. Yet Reja could barely disguise his satisfaction after the Parma match.
"Being so high up the table is wonderful," said the 66-year-old, at the helm since February 2010. "We have exceeded all expectations. Today we also showed more consistency at the back despite the tiredness from Thursday's Europa League game. When you win this kind of match, it is certainly a good omen."
The contest in Rome seemed destined for a goalless draw until, with five minutes remaining, Klose dribbled past three Parma defenders to feed Libor Kozák whose shot was spilled by Antonio Mirante, enabling Giuseppe Sculli to turn the ball in. It was Lazio's second straight 1-0 victory following a midweek success against FC Zürich in the UEFA Europa League.
"Playing in Europe takes up a lot of energy, but we want to go as far as possible in all competitions," said Reja. "We are top of the league and we want to keep growing. We have enough quality to compete with the best teams in Italy and the Europa League."
Of his game-changing centre-forward, signed on a free transfer from FC Bayern München, he added: "[Klose] is the best player I have ever coached, not only for his technique but also because he is always very humble and hungry for success. He is an extraordinary footballer."
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