By Kris Voakes | Italian Football Writer
Juventus’ search for a top-class striker has reached far and wide over recent months. Casting their net across the entirety of Europe, and even dabbling in waters even further afield, the Bianconeri have yet to catch the big fish they feel they require for the remainder of the season. They have entered talks over the transfer of Fernando Llorente, but so far it appears unlikely that he will arrive before the summer.
And now, with their resources still light in the forward department ahead of the resumption of their Champions League campaign, the Italian champions are turning their attentions to one of their own. One year on from cashing in half of Ciro Immobile’s contract for €4 million, the Turin side are looking to bring him back from Genoa in time to play a part in the remainder of the season.
The potential move appears to throw up more questions than answers on the face of it. If Juve are convinced Immobile is the man to lead them forward in the goals department, why didn't they make this move on January 2 when the transfer window opened? And if he was not in their original plans for the second half of the season, what makes him their go-to man now?
After scoring 28 goals in 37 appearances for Pescara last season, Immobile was more than ready for the step up to Serie A, but he has struggled to find form in a Genoa side hanging around the wrong end of the top table this term. He has netted just five times so far, despite having played every game until suspension ruled him out of Sunday’s trip to Cagliari, and moreover his demeanour has not been the same as during 2011-12.
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It could be argued that what he needs is the freedom to develop in a side not compromised by the fear a relegation battle can induce, but he does not look ready to lead a club searching for silverware at home and abroad just yet. The flipside of the same debate suggests that it is partly down to the failure in front of goal of the likes of he and Marco Borriello that the Grifone are still struggling to put a gap between themselves and the bottom three.
His game is not that of a player who thrives on playing with his back to goal. Not one for bringing others into play, the absence of Borriello at stages this season has massively compromised Immobile’s and Genoa’s style. When playing off the former Milan, Roma and Juve forward, he has seemed more at home, but even having an experienced partner as a foil hasn't been enough for the 21-year-old to kick-start his form in front of goal. Immobile has netted only three times in his last 16 appearances, and looks a shadow of the player whose movement in a fluid Pescara forward department was phenomenal.
Studying Immobile’s form more closely, he has not had nearly the same conversion rate in Serie A as he did in the second tier, but that is normal. Defenders give you a rougher ride and close you down more quickly in the top flight, goalkeepers stand taller, the crowd is more expectant. But the former Sorrento youth has yet to adapt to those conditions. Would he be any more successful at Juventus, where each and every chance he has would be replayed countless times more; where every single missed opportunity is discussed at exhaustive lengths on message boards around the world?
The black and white shirt has made a mug of many seemingly capable strikers in the past, and continues to do so. Immobile would need time to come to terms with the new increased demands placed upon him, but will he really get that if he is thrust into regular action for the Bianconeri between now and the end of the season? And if he is not to start often, then would they not be better off leaving him in Liguria for the remainder of the campaign in order that he can grow more over the next five months?
What Juve really need right now is a new figurehead, someone who can help to take the pressure off the likes of Sebastian Giovinco and Mirko Vucinic. The Old Lady’s first-choice front men are not goalscorers of significant repute, more they are flair players whose styles could complement a born finisher. They are scorers of great goals rather than great scorers of goals. Is Ciro Immobile ready to show that he is from the latter category? Current form suggests he’s not what Juventus need just yet.Follow Kris Voakes on