This is where the big holes start appearing. Understandably, some of Europe’s top clubs thought Immobile was worth taking a punt on and Borussia Dortmund snapped him up in the summer of 2014. Though BVB was admittedly dreadful for much of 2014/15 and has its share of locker room issues, Immobile looked out of his depth in Jürgen Klopp’s famed Gegenpress, struggling to fit in and show that he could add to his game. He did score four times in six Champions League games, but that tally was more than he had in 24 Bundesliga games (three), which proved that Germany was a step too far for him.
He tried again overseas with Sevilla the following season and, once more, he couldn’t adapt well enough or show more to his technical side of the game. He scored twice in eight games, couldn’t threaten Kevin Gameiro’s regular starting spot and, by January, he was back in Torino where he recaptured some of his old form with five goals and two assists in 14 league games. From there, Lazio took a chance on him to succeed the legendary Miroslav Klose, who served the capital club admirably during the latter stages of his career.
Immobile’s not the first Italian striker who struggled to settle abroad and probably won’t be the last. It’s perhaps part of the reason why many Italian striking greats preferred to stay home, much like English strikers preferring to stay in England, etc. It’s also, in a way, the reason why interest from abroad in the man who replaced Immobile at Torino, Andrea Belotti, has cooled, as well as the fact he’s struggled to impress this term after a 26-goal Serie A campaign last season.
The easy thing to say for critics would be that Immobile plays in an ‘easier’ league, but that has been proven false the last couple of seasons. Napoli and Roma finally mounted some sort of challenge to Juventus’ dynasty last season, and this year, Napoli are in a neck-and-neck fight with Juve at the top. Plus, the overall brand of football in the league has improved, in part thanks to Lazio, who have been one of Italy’s great entertainers this season, ranking second in Serie A in goals (61) and assists (44), despite only possessing the ball around 49% of the time.
The thing with Immobile is, he only functions best when a team is built around him. At Dortmund and Sevilla, he struggled to be a cog in the system and, because he doesn’t possess the most polished skill set, he looked out of sorts trying to fit in. At Lazio, he’s the only trustworthy option to lead the line, with the impressive Luis Alberto and Sergej Milinković-Savić (a central midfielder) proving to be their only other sources of reliable attacking output. Felipe Anderson has fallen from grace after a sensational 2014/15 campaign, Nani is long past his best and Immobile’s backups are led by Felipe Caicedo, who scored a whopping 24 goals in 103 games for Espanyol. Not exactly spoilt for options in the capital, are they?
Given what he is (and isn’t, as proven during his time abroad), you probably won’t hear a whole lot in terms of interest from reputable sides outside of Italy for the 28-year-old. His struggles with the national team don’t help his cause either, with seven goals to his name in 30 appearances for the Azzurri. And, he has the stain of Italy’s failure to make it to this summer’s World Cup on his CV, ironically caused by the incompetence of his old boss at Torino, Gian Piero Ventura.
A Golden Boot, a top-four place, a Coppa Italia and Europa League contention are all in play for Immobile and the masses should enjoy this while it lasts. Now that Immobile is finally showing some consistency, it’s understandable why people might think he’s more worth the risk now than he was when he left for Germany. But, considering all those facts, it’s understandable why there’s likely some buyers beware. Is what we’re seeing the real deal or is he the type who only flourishes playing somewhere with medium or low expectations, where he is the focal point?
Why leave anyway? You’re in a comfort zone and flourishing in it. If Immobile wants to remain in the kind of company he now finds himself in, he should take a hint from his last name and stay at Lazio. Become a club great like Crespo and Rocchi before you and let the team continue to build around you. Stand still in Rome, Immobile.