Immobile: The Lazio striker leading Lewandowski, Messi and Ronaldo in Golden Shoe race

Cristiano Ronaldo Ciro Immobile Lionel Messi
Ahead of Saturday's Serie A clash with Juventus, the polarising striker is in the form of his life, having hit 17 goals in just 14 Serie A games

Ciro Immobile's one season at Borussia Dortmund was a disaster but he never tires of talking about his time with Jurgen Klopp.

"I always like talking about him," the striker told DAZN.

"I would have really liked to work with him, but as the real Ciro, not the one in Dortmund."

Who is "the real Ciro", though?

Is it the hapless striker who netted just three goals in the Bundesliga or went two years without scoring for Italy?

Or the lethal marksman who has scored more Serie A goals (84) than any other player since 2016?

Of course, the fact that he's only proven prolific in Italy – he managed just two goals during a loan spell in La Liga with Sevilla – is often used as a stick with which to beat one of the more polarising forwards in European football.

Perhaps the criticism that he couldn't cut it against truly world-class opposition even got to Immobile himself.

When Cristiano Ronaldo's shock move to Juventus was confirmed last July, Immobile feared there was little chance of him ever finishing as Serie A's top goalscorer again.

The Italian had been crowned Capocannoniere after hitting 22 goals for Torino in 2013-14, and then shared the honour with Mauro Icardi two seasons ago after netting 29 times for Lazio.

However, despite his proven track record in Serie A, Immobile didn't think he stood much of a chance of keeping up with Real Madrid's all-time record goalscorer.

"When Ronaldo arrived, I thought, 'I'm lucky to have already won the Capocannoniere twice!'" the striker admitted last summer.

Immobile was proven correct.

Ciro Immobile Ronaldo Lazio PS

However, he didn't just fail to compete with Ronaldo, he was also left lagging behind several other strikers, including eventual winner Fabio Quagliarella, who rolled back the years by bagging 26 goals to beat Duvan Zapata (23), Krzysztof Piatek (22) and Ronaldo (21) to top spot.

The latter was still named Serie A's MVP for the quality of his performances during Juventus' Scudetto triumph but this season has been a very different story.

Ahead of Saturday's eagerly anticipated meeting between Lazio and Juve, it is Immobile who has been the best player in Italy's top flight so far this term.

Indeed, the Biancocelesti are Serie A's form team, having won their last six games, and their centre-forward is the main reason why.

Immobile has already surpassed his final tally for the 2018-19 campaign (15) by netting a staggering 17 times in just 14 league appearances.

Consequently, the 29-year-old is not just the top scorer in Serie A, he's also leading the race for the European Golden Shoe from Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski (16).

The remarkable thing is, Immobile could have even scored more.

Last weekend, Lazio's designated penalty-taker turned down the chance to complete a first-half hat-trick with a spot-kick so as to allow Luis Alberto help himself to a goal.

"How could I not leave a penalty to Luis," he argued afterwards. "He's a guy that deserves it for everything he gives us. I had already left one for Felipe Caicedo and Joaquin Correa, so only Luis was missing.

"The important thing is that he unlocks himself with a goal and not only all of the assists. Everyone deserves to score and to play because of how we're training. We're a very united group."

Funnily enough, Immobile cut a frustrated figure earlier in the season.

Ciro Immobile Inzaghi Lazio PS

After Lazio had claimed victory in just one of their opening three Serie A games, he gave them an early lead against Parma on matchday four.

However, when coach Simone Inzaghi elected to replace him midway through the second half, Immobile was visibly furious.

The forward, though, promptly issued a heartfelt apology on Instagram before dismissing any suggestion that there was an issue with his boss.

"It's obvious that there are sometimes moments of disagreement, as with all people that you love," he explained. "But fights can help. Those are things that reinforce the relationship."

The Parma game has certainly proven a major turning point, the first victory in a nine-match unbeaten run that has yielded 23 points.

Tellingly, a revitalised Immobile has netted in every single match, racking up 13 goals in total, meaning both he and third-placed Lazio go into this weekend's game in Rome brimming with belief.

Remarkably, it is Juventus and Ronaldo who are presently being questioned.

The Gazzetta dello Sport even suggesting last week that there was a "CRisis" in Turin, with the five-time Ballon d'Or winner having only netted six goals in Serie A this season – half of which have come via the penalty spot.

Article continues below

It would be foolish to ever write off the 34-year-old or indeed a Juve team that, we shouldn't forget, remains unbeaten this season.

And as the Gazzetta pointed out, Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain have been doing a decent job keeping Juventus on course while we await the appearance of "the real Ronaldo under Maurizio Sarri".

It would be typical of him to turn up for what is a massive game in Rome. But if "the real Ciro" turns up too, Juventus could have as much to fear as Lazio.