Leading Lazio to Serie A glory and beating Cristiano Ronaldo in the scoring charts may finally earn Ciro Immobile a spot among football’s elite.
The stats don’t lie, Ciro Immobile has been extraordinary in this season’s Serie A for Lazio.
The striker leads the way in the league scoring charts on 27 goals in as many matches. His closest rival is none other than Cristiano Ronaldo, who sits four goals adrift. Romelu Lukaku caps off the top-three in a distant third.
But perhaps the standout feature of Immobile’s campaign isn’t beating Ronaldo, but in leading Lazio’s title challenge. To think at this stage last term, they finished 31 points behind Juventus in eighth-place.
Yet 12 months later, the Biancocelesti are dreaming of a first league title since 2000. More impressive still is that they invested only €29.33m on new players last summer compared to the €188.50m spent by Juventus. So just how did they do it?
A part of the reason is down to Immobile’s prolific form, with the Italian’s goal (27) and assist (7) tallies combined making up 55% of the club’s 62 goals.
Nobody would relish leading Lazio to league glory more than Immobile. It would provide him with an opportunity to prove his worth as an elite player; something that’s always eluded him.
‘King Ciro’ isn’t the most exciting player to watch, but his goal output and physical traits make him well suited as a forward. His timing and vision in the box are perhaps his deadliest assets.
The key to Immobile’s form
The former Juventus striker first came to the world’s attention during a prolific spell for Torino in 2013/14, winning the Capocannoniere award that season. A €18.5m switch to Borussia Dortmund followed.
Making the bold move to go abroad didn’t end well for Immobile, though. The player scored just three Bundesliga goals under Jurgen Klopp in a system that was ill-suited to his style.
He later joined Europa League holders Sevilla but suffered a similar fate. He could only get four goals in 15 appearances, blaming discomfort and frustrations with then-manager Unai Emery for his failure.
But Immobile is a picture of happiness at Lazio. He’s in a team built around his strengths and is reaping the benefits, having already scored 116 goals in 168 games. That €9.45m fee the club paid for him in 2016 seems like a downright bargain right now.
Lazio manager Simone Inzaghi tinkered with formations over the last few seasons before finally settling on a 3-5-2 system. Every player now understands his role and can execute his task well.
Another crucial aspect behind Immobile’s strong form is teammate Luis Alberto, who boasts a league-best of 13 assists.
The former Liverpool midfielder, who joined Lazio in 2016 for €4m, is one of the most underrated players in Italy. He’s thrived in a central midfield role, averaging another league-best of 3 key passes and 0.4 through balls-per-game.
Alberto and Immobile have combined for five goals this term, with the latter scoring four times.
Such is their understanding that Ciro jokingly remarked that Alberto knows him better than his own wife on Instagram Live in February.
Serie A glory the priority
One last key factor behind Immobile’s form is Lazio’s decision to sacrifice everything in pursuit of Serie A glory.
Therefore, Inzaghi’s side suffered a group-stage exit in the Europa League and exited the Coppa Italia at the quarter-final stage. Sounds extreme, doesn’t it? But in Ciro’s case, it’s worked out well.
* 2019/20 Europa League stats below.
Unlike Ronaldo, for example, the Neapolitan only featured sparingly in Europe this season. He played just four times, finishing on two goals as Lazio crashed out of the Europa League.
But for Immobile and Inzaghi, it was a worthwhile sacrifice.
This stance enabled Lazio to invest all their energy in the Serie A in a bid to end the club’s 20 year-wait for league glory and give Immobile the success that he so desperately needs.
Tonight’s clash with Fiorentina will give us our clearest indication on Lazio’s title credentials; where victory is must to keep up with Juventus in the standings.