The Curious Case of Ciro Immobile

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As many of you know, I have been putting off writing this article for quite some time now, mainly because I was dearly hoping that I didn’t have to write it in the first place… however, as we are now getting deeper into the League campaign and the month of November approaches, one cannot continue to ignore the fact that one of our star summer signings seems to have disappeared from radar and from Emery’s plans altogether. Ciro Immobile, a player who at only 25 years old, is already plying his trade at his 8th professional club, and just like at his last club, things are not quite working out as planned.

So what is the problem? Why has he flopped in such a short space of time? And is there any hope for him at Sevilla? I eagerly invite your suggestions to those questions below, but in the meantime here is my take on things.

Ok first up, I will consider, from the little that is written or known about him, whether Immobile is happy here in Seville, and whether he is a disruptive influence in the dressing room.

This idea probably stems from well documented evidence of Immobile being the moody type, one who is a bit of a loner, and who doesn’t get on particularly well with his team mates. This was especially clear at Dortmund, where pictures were posted of him sitting in an airport lounge a considerable distance away from his team mates during their summer pre-season tour of Asia. Whether or not he was just getting some quiet time to read, or phone home, no-one really knows, but the photographs did not help his reputation in this regard. More about his problems at Dortmund later.

Lack of desire for his move to the club certainly didn’t seem to be a problem, especially early on when he reportedly spoke about his joy in Sevilla, and how much more of a family the players and staff are (which is obviously important to him, as is part of the Italian culture that he was grew up with). Whether he has integrated fully into this particular family is still yet to be seen.

On the pitch however is where it matters most of course, and sadly his performances so far have failed to impress. Not once has he found the net, not even in pre-season, although he did come close against Levante with a header on target as we chased the game for a winner. He also famously assisted Konplyanka in the UEFA Super Cup final. It could be argued that he has struggled less to fit into our system than say Fernando Llorente has, so that is what makes it even more telling that Emery decided to put Llorente in the squad over him against Getafe.

His last notable contribution on Twitter at the beginning of this month seemed to show little problems in this regard, when he posted a picture of him in the middle of his team-mates celebrating the 2-1 win over Barcelona, with his caption roughly translated as “Team Spirit! Many people talk without knowing!”

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Interestingly though, he played no part in the game and was an unused substitute, yet still showed his appreciation for the “team…” It was perhaps telling though that he was not present in the now almost customary post win group shot after the Getafe game on Saturday. Whether there is a more simple explanation for this or not we will never know, but he was certainly notable by his absence.

So perhaps there are other issues at stake after all, and his lack of game time has nothing to do with his alleged lack of interpersonal skills? Maybe Dortmund was a one off, and he had every right to feel left out of things there, especially if language was a barrier and he thus felt like not part of the family? After all, we all know how emotional these Italian types are… 🙂

Questions about Immobile’s general attitude are not far from the surface in every conversation about him, and it was insinuated that Immobile failed to learn German as it was too difficult for him, or “impossible” as he was quoted as saying in his interview with El Pais. He wanted more help from his team-mates, and didn’t settle into the German culture were two more interesting factoids. This was one reason why a move to Seville was appealing, as it closely mirrored the Italian culture perhaps more than any other country.

I am going to have to say that as a professional footballer, one would expect that you don’t always get to live and work in the place of your choice, or a place that fits in with your emotional sensibilities. Flexibility and endurance are attributes that all true professionals need to have in order to succeed, and when I hear of players not settling into a new culture, the old British saying “Yeah, he is a good player, but could he do it on a wet Wednesday night in Stoke”? springs to mind. Seville, thankfully, couldn’t be further from Stoke if it tried, so he has no excuses in that department! Spanish is also considerably closer to his mother tongue Italian, so again, no excuses Ciro!

Dortmund officials responded negatively to Immobile’s criticism of his time in Germany, saying they did everything they could for him to make his time there a success. Always two sides to every story, as they say, and there comes a point where the best solution for both parties is to part ways. Immobile won’t be the first or the last player to struggle in another culture. There is no definite shame in that, but please don’t blame others for your miserable time, as this betrays a deeper issue at stake, one that shows responsibility is not your thing.

He has also reportedly openly spoke about his desire to play for Napoli (well he is a fan of theirs since childhood), which no doubt gets on some fans’ nerves. This to me is not really a big deal.

Then there is that simple solution to the conundrum. Perhaps he is just not that good at football after all, and one brilliant (20+ goals) season in a relatively weak Serie A had blown all of the football world’s estimations out of proportion? I doubt this answer very much, as there must be more to him that one lucky season. Which leads me to my next thought, that perhaps Immobile just can’t handle the pressure of expectation? Touted by the media and fans alike as Lewandowski’s replacement, and now Bacca’s, Immobile has certainly had big boots to fill in both of his last moves, and this pressure would be enough for many players to struggle.

At Torino he was arguably not expected to do much, as Juventus were happy to get rid of him. He had a couple of poor seasons in the top flight before his move, and even Genoa wanted rid of their part ownership of him at the time. As it turned out he surprised many with his big season with Torino, and this perhaps telling that his one wonder season was on the back of little or no expectations. It is a fact that Immobile was admired for a long time before Kloop, and eventually Emery and Monchi got their man, but all suitors must have been surprised just how little has been re-paid to them for their faith in him.

Then there is the old ‘striker’s confidence’ scenario. Everybody knows that playing as a striker is all about scoring goals, and when a striker has a barren spell it can be a very difficult mental barrier to overcome. There are plenty of examples of this predicament even amongst the great players, so maybe Immobile just needs a lucky deflected goal (has to be on the field first I guess) for the proverbial flood gates to open?

Future at Seville?

Understandably, Immobile’s poor start to his career has already attracted the unfortunate label from many Sevillistas as this season’s Iago Aspas! The comparison however is perhaps a little harsh on Aspas, as he at least scored a few goals in his limited time on the field, heck, even Raul Rusescu (who is now warming the bench for some obscure Turkish team) scored a goal for us! Whether or not we will see Emery give him another chance remains to be seen, but something tells me that is more down to Immobile and how he responds to the challenge than to our manager’s stubbornness.

For me personally, he worryingly reminds me of his fellow countryman Mario Balotelli, who as a footballer is a natural talent and has/had obviously the world at his feet. Yet at the same time he has an apparent mental block and seeming inability to rise out of slumps when things are not going his way, or when he doesn’t feel loved (or perhaps when he is not considered number one?). Interesting.

So, c’mon Immobile, roll up those sleeves, sort out whatever problem you are having and fight hard for your place, and as a result show the footballing world what you are no doubt capable of.

Thanks again for reading, and apologies for all the spelling mistakes, but I have no more time to spend on this article and I fear if I don’t post it now it will forever sit in my drafts!