Catch him if you can, Cristiano! Ronaldo trails Immobile in epic Capocannoniere race

Cristiano Ronaldo Ciro Immobile Juventus Lazio Serie A 2019-20 GFXGetty/Goal

Cristiano Ronaldo's dedication to the game is the stuff of legend.

Yet Juventus' medical team were astounded when the 35-year-old returned to Continassa last month in better physical condition than when lockdown began in March.

While some players struggled to stay in shape during the coronavirus-enforced suspension of play, with Eden Hazard admitting that he found it difficult to avoid stuffing his face with buns, Ronaldo threw himself into training.

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According to Tuttosport, Ronaldo worked out for three-to-four hours a day during the two-month long lockdown, meaning he is now fitter than he was while netting in a record-equalling 11 consecutive Serie A appearances across January and February.

The incredible thing is, though, that a repeat of that run might actually be required if the five-time Ballon d'Or winner is to win this season's Capocannoniere award for the Italian top-flight's top goalscorer.

That is because despite Ronaldo having struck 21 times in Serie A this season, he still trails Ciro Immobile by six goals at the top of the standings.

Lazio striker Immobile is presently netting at a staggering rate. Indeed, only Antonio Valentin Angelillo (29) has ever scored more than Immobile (27) after 26 Serie A matchdays.

History now looks well within the Neapolitan's reach – he needs just nine more goals to equal Gonzalo Higuain's record for a single Serie A season (36, in 2015-16) – given he approached his quarantine training programme with the same level of diligence as Ronaldo, often doing two sessions a day.

Immobile's sensational form in front of goal is, of course, one of the main reasons why Lazio are, against all odds, just a point behind Serie A leaders Juve ahead of this month's resumption of play.

However, it is not just his strike-rate that has gone to another level – it is his all-round game, as underlined by the fact that he has already racked up seven assists this season, meaning he has been directly involved in more goals in 2019-20 (34) than any other player across Europe's Big Five leagues.

Those are remarkable numbers for a player who flopped at both Borussia Dortmund and Sevilla in his mid-20s, and once went two years without scoring for Italy.

Immobile has always maintained that he did not get the support he needed to settle at Signal Iduna Park, while he blamed Unai Emery for the unsuccessful nature of his short loan spell at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan.

However, the Italian also conceded that he struggled with the pressure of replacing Robert Lewandowski at Dortmund, and Immobile has admitted himself that he needs to feel "important" to perform at his best for any team.

Lazio boss Simone Inzaghi has done a masterful job in that regard, supporting Immobile throughout their time together but also showing his star striker some 'tough love' when required.

"Fights can help," Immobile admitted after a touchline dust-up with his coach earlier in the season. "Those are things that reinforce the relationship."

The net result is that, at 30 years of age, Immobile is playing like never before, and he is well aware that both he and Lazio have a unique opportunity to do something truly special.

Immobile's wife, Jessica Melena, even recently joked that if her husband were to finish as top scorer in a first Biancocelesti Scudetto success since 2000, the only possible way to celebrate would be for them to have another child!

Of course, Immobile has already finished as Serie A's top scorer on two previous occasions, in 2013-14 and 2017-18, but he did not expect to find himself in contention for the accolade this term.

Indeed, when Ronaldo arrived in Italy two years ago, Immobile quipped: "I'm lucky to have already won the Capocannoniere twice!"

Real Madrid icon Ronaldo did not score quite as freely as many expected during his debut Serie A campaign, though. He only netted 21 goals, fewer than Krzysztof Piatek, Duvan Zapata and leading marksman Fabio Quagliarella.

There were mitigating circumstances in that regard, as Ronaldo's game time was carefully managed by Juve with Europe in mind. For both the player and his club, the Champions League was – and remains – the primary objective.

Ronaldo also did enough to be named Serie A's 'Most Valuable Player' for 2018-19, but there is no denying that he only found his very best form at the turn of the year, which resulted in his goals-per-game ratio jumping from 0.68 last season to 0.95 this term.

He now has 42 goals in just 52 league appearances for Juventus – neither AC Milan legend Andriy Shevchenko nor the Inter icon Ronaldo reached that figure in so few games. It is as if the Portugal international is on a mission to make up for lost time. Whether he is doing so at a quick enough rate to catch Immobile remains to be seen.

There is also some doubt over whether Ronaldo will feature as much in Serie A as Immobile, given Juve still have the Coppa Italia and the Champions League to worry about, while Lazio are already out of both the domestic cup and the Europa League.

What we do know for sure, though, is that football is returning. And so too are Ronaldo and Immobile, fitter and stronger than ever before.

So, brace yourself for an epic conclusion to the race for the Scudetto – and the Capocannoniere.