Is Ciro Immobile on for the record Capocannoniere?
Background image: Andrew, CC BY-SA 3.0
With Juventus on eight consecutive Scudetti, it's difficult to label Serie A unpredictable. Since 2015/16, Napoli, Roma and Inter divide second, third or fourth between them except for the two occasions when Atalanta intervened. Last season, Inter and Napoli challenged Juve in the early doors but the Old Lady pulled away before the New Year and was eight points up after Matchday 17. This season, however, their hegemony is in real peril. Inter remain ahead on goal difference and Lazio, who finished either fifth or eighth in the past four campaigns, are third, six points off the pace. One man deserves the lion's share of the credit for the Biancocelesti's insurgence.
Long-darting the challenge is Ciro Immobile, a 29-year-old Italian international who is no stranger to scoring. Yet, as clinical as the former Borussia Dortmund and Torino man can be, this is a career season. With 17 goals and five assists in 16 Serie A matches, he's on pace to set an Italian scoring record. At his current pace, he may finish with 40 goals.
That forecast eclipses the long-standing Serie A goal-scoring record for a single season, set by Gino Rossetti in 1928/29. Legendary Italian finishers Giuseppe Meazza, Paolino Pulici, Paolo Rossi, Luca Toni, Francesco Totti and Antonio di Natale never touched it. Foreign stars such as Gabriel Batistuta, Michel Platini, Marco van Basten, Diego Maradona, Andriy Shevchenko and Zlatan Ibrahimovic never beat it.
Gonzalo Higuain finally matched the record in 2016/17, in dramatic style, with a hattrick including an overhead kick on the season's final day. But 36 remains the mark. Even renowned 40-goal man Cristiano Ronaldo can't approach the number in Lega Calcio. But now Ciro Immobile has his sights set on the record.
His success has been built on a determination. Immobile cherishes the ball at his feet. Very little waste comes from the Italian international. He maintains possession until there’s a good play to be made. Whether that's picking out the right pass or finding space to get off a shot, he’s content to take his time, displaying a relaxed mentality when others would act out of panic or urgency.
He has support. Joaquin Correa slots in behind as the second striker. He contributes seven goals and four assists across all competitions. In the midfield, Sergeij Milinkovic-Savic reverses those numbers. But the real creative force is Luis Alberto. The 27-year-old Spaniard pockets four goals this term while creating 13 for teammates, primarily Immobile. In addition to his direct goal involvement, the former Liverpool player provides 3.23 key passes per 90 in Serie A [Understat].
A combination of aggression and sympathetic referees helps Immobile's cause. Lazio benefit from more penalties awarded  than any other Italian side. Their talisman took seven of those, failing only to convert one, in the 3-1 home victory against Juventus.
Immobile resumes his pursuit of immortality on 5 January when Lazio face relegation-threatened Brescia. Even with Mario Balotelli leading the line for La Lionessa, their 15 goals fail to keep pace with Immobile. A hat-trick to begin the season's second half would put the 20-goal mile-marker in his rearview and draw Rosetti and Higuain that much closer.