Serie A has come alive this season, with Antonio Conte’s Inter taking the fight to Juventus.
Very little separates the two sides at the top of the table at the moment, and there’s every chance we might finally see someone else other than the Old Lady lift the Scudetto by the end of the campaign.
But the title race isn’t just between the two biggest clubs from Italy’s Northwest, as Lazio’s rise this season puts them in contention, too.
The Rome-based club have been the best of the rest this term and currently sit in third-place — just six points off the top of the table — and are in the midst of an incredible winning run that’s seen them victorious in every league game they’ve played in since the end of October.
That’s right, they’ve won all 11 of their last 11 Serie A matches; it’s scarcely believable, isn’t it?
The Biancocelesti are filled to the brim with interesting characters and cult heroes too, ranging from play-maker (and former Liverpool flop) Luis Alberto, to ‘the Serbian Pogba’ in Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, while being coached by one of world football’s most exciting young managers in Simone Inzaghi.
But the catalyst of their fine campaign is undoubtedly their star striker Ciro Immobile.
Immobile is goal-scoring royalty.
A hat-trick against Sampdoria on Saturday brought his Serie A tally for the season to 23 goals, ahead of the flashier names of Cristiano Ronaldo (16) and Romelu Lukaku (14).
This season isn’t just a flash in the pan either, as Immobile was the league’s joint top-scorer in 2017/18, as well as in 2013/14 when he was with Torino.
Having totalled 122 goals in Serie A since making his debut, he’s now among the top 50 highest goal-scorers in the league’s history.
So if scoring goals is what he does, why then — with every respect to Lazio — is he not leading the line for a top, Champions League-level, club?
On the face of it, the Italy international would be perfect for someone like Man United, Chelsea or Spurs; all of whom are supposedly in the market for a striker this month.
At 29, Immobile is at the very peak of powers; capable of playing anywhere along the front-line.
Pacey and agile, and well renowned for his ability to exploit space and make life difficult for his opposing defenders with his movement, his eye for goal has become legendary in his homeland.
Prising him away from Lazio would be a problem though, especially as the striker has seemingly very little desire to leave.
Back in November, when asked if he’d ever consider moving to Naples — his place of birth — to play for Napoli, he told reporters: “I’m happy here, there’s never a thought of leaving. I don’t think about it.
“I bought a house, it’s near the Olimpico, I’ll be closer to the stadium. We like the city, it’s close to my wife’s town, it’s close to my town. It’s a good solution for us.”
Lazio’s system is also perfectly aligned to benefit his attacking characteristics; evident by his effective strike partnership with Joaquin Correa in the 3-5-2 formation.
Virtually all of the side’s attacking movement is being played to, or created by, Immobile, making him responsible for around 60% of his team’s goals this season.
That kind of return doesn’t come cheap, and Lazio would certainly require a huge fee to let him leave.
Then there’s the serious question marks over his ability to adapt to another club, and another country.
Immobile has already experienced life away from Italy, having moved to Germany in 2014 to play for Dortmund after his impressive campaign with Torino.
But the move lasted just a single season following a combination of issues; ranging from his inability to grasp Jurgen Klopp’s system at BVB, through to the general culture clash of German football and Germany in general.
After scoring just three goals in 24 league outings, Dortmund’s patience ran thin and he was loaned to Sevilla before joining the Spanish club permanently, then almost immediately going back to Torino on a temporary deal.
After such a tumultuous period of his career, which saw him waste two precious years of his mid-20s, Immobile is just about back to his very best.
Settled in an environment, league and country that he thrives in, there’s a strong possibility that he’ll lead the line for Italy this summer at Euro 2020, as long as he continues to play well and score goals.
For now, Immobile is living up to his name and going nowhere.
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