Golden Boot

Finisher, creator, workhorse: Ciro Immobile is the complete striker

The Lazio striker scored 36 league goals be named as Europe's most prolific forward for the 19/20 season

8:00am on Friday 7th August 2020
Alasdair Mackenzie

The first man to break Luis Suarez, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo’s 11-year long stranglehold of the European Golden Boot. The first Italian to win the prize since Francesco Totti in 2007.

The most goals ever scored by an Italian, and the joint-most scored by anyone, in a single Serie A season. Ciro Immobile’s list of achievements for 2019/20 doesn’t end here, but you get the idea.

It has been a historic campaign for the 30-year-old, who fired Lazio to an unexpected title challenge and their first Champions League qualification in 13 years.

30 yrs - ST (C) - Lazio
JavaScript chart by amChartsLDefendingCreativePassingAttackingShootingDecisiveAerialsPhysical10-10-5051015100%
Played matches
Shots P90
Shots On target P90
Duels won P90
Touches in box opp P90

But what makes Immobile such a remarkable player is that his overall contribution goes far beyond his ability to stick the ball in the net.

Not only did the Neapolitan top the Serie A scoring charts this season with an astonishing 36 goals, equalling Gonzalo Higuain’s record with Napoli in 2015/16, but he finished joint-fourth in the assist charts with eight.

Immobile’s creativity is often overlooked by his detractors – of which there are still a baffling number - and it takes many forms.

His strongest attribute is his movement. Immobile is better at this than anything else – shooting, passing, crossing – and his ability to time runs, disorientate defences and find pockets of space in tight areas allows him, but importantly also his team-mates, to thrive.

It’s not a coincidence that Immobile’s partner-in-crime at Lazio, Luis Alberto, was the top assist provider in the division this year.

The Spaniard’s creative vision is worthy of applause in its own right, but he was certainly helped by gaps that opened up in front of him after Immobile dragged a defender away, or the willing runs of the No.17 to latch onto postage-stamp long balls.


Comparing Immobile's penalty total to other Serie A capocannoniere winners

European Golden Shoe 19/20: Immobile's 36 goals clinches the prize

Immobile constantly drops deep into midfield or heads into the wide areas, contributing in the construction of attacks and frustrating any defenders who were hoping to man-mark the danger man.

From these areas he has provided eight assists and 59 key passes over the course of the season. This creativity isn’t a one-off. Immobile’s combined tally of 44 goals and assists this season is the highest of any player in the last decade in Serie A.

Roma’s Edin Dzeko is second in these standings, with 42 from 2016/17, but in third place it’s that man Immobile again, from 2017/18 with 41.

Even in the win over Brescia on the penultimate day of the season, when Immobile was fiercely chasing Higuain’s record, he provided a neat assist for Joaquin Correa and often looked to set up opponents in better positions than he was. It was a typical example of his selfless leadership.

Immobile’s work off the ball is tireless, endlessly moving around the final third and midfield, but he picks his moments to finish off moves. Only one of his 36 goals this season came from outside the box.

Unlike Cristiano Ronaldo, who peppered an average of 2.5 shots per game from outside the area this season, Immobile (0.7) tends to get into good scoring positions before taking aim.

For some, the fact that 14 of Immobile’s goals were penalties undermines his achievement. There are a couple of points to consider here.

Firstly, the striker earned six of those 14 spot kicks himself, often being hauled down from scoring positions. He didn’t earn assists for these efforts.

Secondly, and more importantly, penalty taking is a skill. The ball doesn’t fly into the net on its own.

Converting from 12 yards isn’t necessarily an easier feat than scoring from open play, either - Immobile would undoubtedly have preferred a tap-in, or even a one-on-one with the keeper, for example.

But Immobile has been lethal from this range, scoring 14 penalties from 15 attempts. That is a conversion rate (93%) worthy of plaudits, not criticism.

2019/20 European Golden Shoe

Ciro ImmobileLazio28.13672
Robert LewandowskiBayern Munich31.23468
Cristiano RonaldoJuventus29.113162
Timo WernerRB Leipzig23.452856
Lionel MessiBarcelona20.852550

A surprising number of Immobile’s compatriots still refuse to rate him, due in part to his poor performances for the national team.

His first touch can be clumsy, and he will often miss easy chances before dispatching harder ones.

But the consistency of his goalscoring at Lazio has been nothing short of phenomenal. Since arriving in Rome in 2016, nobody has come close to matching Immobile’s tally of 103 league goals – the next closest are Dries Mertens (71) and Dzeko (70).

He’s the top scorer of the last 10 years in Serie A with 135 strikes since 2010, while only the legendary Gunnar Nordahl, with five, has won more capocannoniere titles than the Italian’s three.

Only Nordahl (116’), Christian Vieri and David Trezeguet (both 127’) can boast a better minutes-per-goal ratio than Immobile (129’) in Serie A history.

Immobile is the complete striker - a finisher, creator, workhorse and a leader. It is for all these things, not just the 36 league goals, that his triumphant season should be celebrated and applauded for years to come.

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