Yes, Ciro Immobile Has Scored Goals for Fun at Lazio - But He's Not Right for Everton
The sound of Chris Kavanagh's whistle brought a merciful end to the longest of seasons at Goodison Park.
A limp 3-1 loss was the latest disappointment in a whimpering end to the campaign, as Carlo Ancelotti's side slumped to 12th place - the club's lowest league finish since 2004.
There have been flickers of promise since Ancelotti's arrival in December. Yet, in a (wise) attempt to swiftly banish any lingering memories of the previous 11 months of mediocrity, whispers concerning the single biggest distraction technique in any club's armoury have surfaced: transfers.
90min has recently been told that Ancelotti is lining up Lazio hotshot Ciro Immobile as one of his key targets. This season, the Italian striker became just the fourth player to score more than 30 Serie A goals in a single campaign during the last 60 years.
Immobile is on course for finishing as the division's top scorer for the second time in three years and can point to more than 100 Italian top flight goals since August 2016 (more than any other Serie A player).
A remarkably heavy flow of penalties and sizeably over-performing his expected goals somewhat inflates these figures, but they remain impressive statistics. However, there is plenty of cause for hesitancy before particularly eager fans start scrawling 'Immobile' across the back of replica kits.
Past Disappointments Outside Italy
The 19th Century composer Giuseppe Verdi wrote in his opera Attila: "You may have the universe, if I may have Italy."
Immobile appears to have struck a similar deal with the footballing gods given the struggles he encountered during his 18 months off the peninsula.
Borussia Dortmund won the race for Serie A's top scorer in the summer of 2014, whisking him away as a replacement for Robert Lewandowski. In 24 Bundesliga outings, Immobile mustered three goals.
When asked in an interview with El País what went wrong at Dortmund, Immobile bluntly replied: "Not receiving help, neither I nor my family. We have suffered a lot." The Italy international went on to lament that 'German is an impossible language to learn'. However, his gripes with Dortmund's assistance were not warmly received by the club's hierarchy.
In response to Immobile's comments Michael Zorc - Dortmund's sporting director - told the German publication Kicker: "If these quotes are actually true, they make me want to puke. Instead of criticising teammates, coach and club, a little more self-criticism would be appropriate."
The culture clash between German and Italian football would not have aided Immobile's transition. He struggled to adapt to the break-neck speed of the Bundesliga in comparison to the serene pace of Serie A - which doesn't exactly bode well ahead of a potential move to the similarly high tempo Premier League.
Immobile stuck it out for 12 months in Germany but lasted half that time after moving to Sevilla in 2015. Unai Emery afforded Immobile eight league outings for the Andalusian side before the Italy international hurriedly agreed a loan back to Torino.
There may have been extenuating circumstances for Immobile's continental failings but those exploits happened half a decade ago. At 30 years of age, Immobile - and Everton - can hardly afford to let a year slip by in the name of a transitional season.
Admittedly, the forward has shown few signs of slowing down but just because the Premier League's top scorer happened to be 33 this season, does not mean clubs should be searching for strikers approaching veteran status.
Incidentally, Immobile will be 33 by the time his contract at Lazio expires. With three years left on his deal, Lazio are in a strong negotiating position and are under little pressure to sell a player fundamental to their recent success.
As evidenced by their forceful handling of the Sergej Milinkovic-Savic transfer sagas in recent summers, the capital club will not let a key asset depart for anything less than their lofty valuations. Add in the fact that Lazio are poised to enter the Champions League group stage for the first time in a decade and the club will demand a sizeable fee for their star forward.
Not the Priority for Everton
At both Dortmund and Sevilla, Immobile partially struggled because he was deployed in a single striker system. Since Ancelotti's arrival Everton have almost exclusively played with two up top - which would suit Immobile. But the quality of those front men provide further weight behind the argument that Immobile - or more broadly, a striker - is not the priority for Everton.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison both racked up 15 goals across all competitions this season - in the 17 games they have started together, the pair have combined for 13 goals.
The next highest scorer is Gylfi Sigurdsson and Bernard with three each. Besides the front two, there is a desperate lack of goals throughout the squad and a worrying absence of potency or creativity in midfield.
When Yerry Mina hobbled off against Wolverhampton Wanderers in mid-July, the lack of depth at centre-back was there for all to see, even if the incoming Jarrad Branthwaite has provided a late positive to the season's conclusion.
As much as Ancelotti demands backing, in the economic climate, Everton's transfer funds will not be unlimited and there are bigger issues than up front.
Maybe Ancelotti will be able to sling his arm around Immobile and call upon those mystical powers of player whispering to cajole his Serie A form out of him. Yet, that would take a lot of money, time and some luck.
How much of any of those commodities Everton have remains to be seen and what they do possess would be better used elsewhere.