It’s not often that a striker’s form gets so good that it’s almost embarrassing.
But that was exactly how it felt on Sunday when Joaquin Correa was tripped inside the Udinese box to give Lazio their second penalty kick of the first half.
At that point, Lazio were cruising with a two-goal lead. Both goals had, of course, been scored by Ciro Immobile.
The second of those was from the penalty spot, which Immobile dispatched expertly – an underrated part of his game, and not the only one.
But instead of stepping up to notch his hat-trick and take ownership of yet another match ball before the half-time whistle had even been blown, the Italy international let Luis Alberto do the honours in his place.
“I couldn’t take it away from him, he deserved it,” Immobile said after the game. “I’ve left one to (Felipe) Caicedo, one to (Joaquin) Correa, and so it was his turn. It was important for him to score again.”
In one flash interview, Immobile highlighted the humility, teamwork and leadership that he possesses.
But those aren’t the qualities that have seen football fans across the continent sit up and take notice of the striker recently.
That has been down to his extraordinary knack for putting the ball in the net, something he is doing with alarming regularity at every level this season.
Immobile’s double against Udinese took his tally in Serie A for the season to 17 goals in 14 games. Only three of those have been from the penalty spot, the rest from open play.
He’s scored in nine consecutive games. He’s failed to get his name on the scoresheet in just two of 14 league matches this season. To put it in Fantasy Football terms, he’s been the easiest pick for years.
While his form in Serie A has been outstanding, he hasn’t slowed down outside of Italy either.
He has two goals in three Europa League appearances. He has three goals and an assist in his last three appearances for the national team, helping him finally change some stubborn minds about his ability to perform for the Azzurri.
His brace against Udinese was his fifth double of the season, taking him within two of the club record with just over a third of the season played – a record that was set by Hernan Crespo in 2000/01 and – you guessed it – Immobile himself in 2017/18.
Immobile is now Europe’s most in-form striker, underlined by the fact that he now leads the European Golden Boot standings ahead of Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski following last weekend’s exploits.
Records have started to tumble, too. His haul of 17 Serie A goals is the most any Lazio player has ever scored after 14 games, and the most any player has mustered by this stage of the season since Angelillo of Inter in 1958/59 and Borel for Juventus in 1933/34.
Gonzalo Higuain currently holds the record number of goals for a single Serie A season, when he notched 36 in 2015/16 for Napoli – but even the Argentine only had 12 by this stage.
The debate has begun over whether Immobile is capable of challenging Higuain’s record this season. He certainly will if he keeps up his current rate of 1.21 goals per game – a rate that would see him finish the campaign with 46 league goals.
Immobile has now usurped Tommaso Rocchi as Lazio’s third-highest Serie A scorer of all time with 84 strikes, and he now has his sights set on Giuseppe Signori’s 107.
In terms of all-time top scorers in all competitions, Immobile has drawn level with Rocchi on 105 goals at number five in the standings, behind Bruno Giordano (108), Giorgio Chinaglia (122), Signori (127) and Silvio Piola (159).
These are staggering statistics for any player. When you consider that Immobile has achieved all of this in less than three-and-a-half seasons in Rome, it becomes jaw-dropping.
The next task is one of his biggest yet. Juventus visit the Stadio Olimpico on Saturday with an unbeaten record in all competitions intact.
Lazio have their tails up, with six league wins in a row to their name. They’ve also scored at least three goals in each of their last five home games for the first time ever.
With a sell-out crowd expected at the Olimpico and the chance to move three points behind the defending Italian champions at stake for Lazio, it promises to be one of the showcase games of the season so far.
A setting fit for Europe’s most lethal striker to make his mark.
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