Although he is a prolific scorer for Lazio at club level, Ciro Immobile has struggled to replicate the same finishing prowess with Italy.
Currently his career is starting to have an eerie similarity to a Biancocelesti striker from the past in Giorgio Chinaglia, who was a star for his club but failed to produce the goods for the Azzurri, and on that basis, the 28-year-old is becoming the new Chinaglia.
Immobile has been in sensational form since he was acquired from Spanish club Sevilla in the summer of 2016, scoring 23 goals in 36 Serie A games for Lazio during the 2016-17 campaign and he has scored 24 times in 26 league matches so far this season.
Unfortunately he has not been able to score with such efficiency with the Italian national team, scoring just seven times in 32 caps with a goal average of 0.22, which is a paltry strike rate for an out-and-out striker.
He was the leading goalscorer in Group G of the 2018 World Cup qualifiers with six goals but he failed to score against group rivals Spain and he was not able to capitalize on limited goalscoring chances in the play-offs defeat to Sweden.
Italy drew 1-1 against England in a friendly on Tuesday evening at Wembley and Immobile could have won the game off his own boot in the first 15 minutes or so but he was very wasteful.
In the opening minute, he sprung the offside trap after Jorginho and he only had English goalkeeper Jack Butland to beat, but he took too many additional steps and defender John Stones dispossessed him.
Stones gifted Immobile another chance to score in the third minute when he lost control of the ball in defence but the Azzurri striker took too long to shoot and the Three Lions defender was able to dispossess him again.
Sixteen minutes had gone when Antonio Candreva curled a cross into the box from the right-wing and Immobile headed the ball just over the bar when he was directly in front of goal.
In previous internationals, the lack of goals could have been blamed on a lack of adequate service from the midfielders and wide players, but he had excellent chances to convert and failed to do so. This time, the midfield or the coach could not be blamed for Immobile’s inability to finish.
The contrast between his club and international form is incredible and he is not the first Lazio striker in that situation. Chinaglia was a scoring machine for the Aquile in the 1970s and he was the main protagonist when they won their first Serie A title in the 1973-74 season.
Despite his heroics for his club, he could not do the same for Italy. He started brightly by scoring three times in his first three internationals but finished with a total of four goals in 14 matches with a goal average of 0.29.
Chinaglia expected to be a star at the 1974 World Cup but he was substituted in the 3-1 victory against Haiti and the 2-1 defeat against Poland as Italy crashed out in the first round. He still earned caps after the tournament but he was not capped again after Enzo Bearzot became the Azzurri tactician.
At least in Chinaglia’s era, Italy had a wealth of attacking talent. He had to compete with the likes of Luigi Riva, Roberto Boninsegna, Paolo Pulici, and Pietro Anastasi for a spot in the team and then strikers such as Francesco Graziani and Roberto Bettega took their places.
Even if he did not leave for American club New York Cosmos in 1976, Vicenza striker Paolo Rossi was on the rise so he would be another rival to compete with.
Due to a dearth of world-class players in Italian football at the moment, Immobile is unlikely to be phased out like Chinaglia was for the national team so his critics will have to tolerate him for a bit longer.
Unless he can turn his form around and become a prolific scorer for Italy, Ciro Immobile will become the new Giorgio Chinaglia.