It’s been a long old wait for Lazio.
Tuesday marked the end of a 13-year wait for a Champions League group game, or 4697 days to be exact.
There has been plenty of pain in the interim. In their efforts to return to European football’s showcase tournament, the capital club has been denied by goal difference, a play-off defeat and a final-day collapse.
Anybody who witnessed the horror show of their 3-0 defeat at Sampdoria on Saturday will understand why.
A dreadful display summed up a disappointing start to the season, in which Simone Inzaghi’s side have carried the poor form from the tail end of 2019/20 into the new campaign.
What’s more, the issues that were responsible for the disaster at the Marassi – injury problems, bad form and depleted morale – hadn’t gone away by the time the German giants rolled into town.
What followed was a stunning reminder of the quality this team possesses. Lazio put in by far their best display since lockdown, with a performance that was clinical, authoritative and intelligent.
Ciro Immobile’s face was triumphantly slapped on the front pages on Wednesday morning. The word “revenge” was fired out by journalists with machine-gun like rapidity.
But this wasn’t about revenge. Immobile simply did what he always does. He scored one goal, he set another up.
The Italy international, like almost all of his team-mates, put in a superb shift.
But the only people who expressed surprise were those who bafflingly continue to insist that the 30-year-old’s disappointing season in Germany back in 2014/15 has cast a shadow over his career.
It was a poor year for the striker. Immobile scored just three Bundesliga goals and was considered a disastrous signing by the fans.
However, it was the first time he had left Italy and he wasn’t given a second chance, despite hinting at his ability on the European stage with four goals in six Champions League games for the German club.
If the striker had only just returned to Italy this year after flopping in Germany, perhaps the narrative of him proving a point against his former employers would have some substance.
But it was five years ago, and only three members of the Dortmund squad that travelled to Rome on Tuesday – Mats Hummels, Lukasz Piszczek and Marco Reus – were at the club at the same time as Immobile. Jurgen Klopp is long gone.
With all due respect to Dortmund, they aren’t a European super club at the level of Real Madrid, Barcelona or Bayern Munich. A player’s career shouldn’t be defined by any one season there, good or bad.
Since leaving Germany, Immobile has been crowned capocannoniere twice, won the European golden shoe, equalled the single-season scoring record in Serie A, and won Europa League top scorer.
He’s also become Lazio’s second-top scorer of all time and led the club to Coppa Italia glory, two Supercoppa Italiana wins and back into the Champions League for the first time since 2007.
Those are the achievements that define a career, not one bad year in Germany.
While Immobile’s “revenge” makes a delicious narrative for hungry hacks, perhaps it’s time to change the record.
A lot of water has gone under the bridge since Immobile’s time in Germany, and his remarkable list of achievements since returning to Italy deserve far more plaudits than they get.
Perhaps, after his stunning start to the Biancocelesti’s European campaign, Ciro will find a more appreciative audience for his talents in Europe than he does at home. It’s time to move on.