Immobile: I spent hours talking to Ventura in his office

Ciro Immobile has revealed that long chats with Italy coach Giampiero Ventura got him through the hard times. Immobile spent just a season under the command of Ventura, hitting 22 goals in 33 Serie A games for Torino in 2013/14.

The striker born by the foot of Mount Vesuvius subsequently struggled during spells at Borussia Dortmund and Sevilla, but has found his rhythm again for Lazio this term. Immobile has also made each of Ventura’s Italy squads, scoring four goals in four 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ qualifiers, including a late double away to FYR Macedonia that turned defeat into a 3-2 victory.

“I’ve always had a special rapport with Ventura, as he was always close to me during the difficult times,” explained the 26-year-old. “We spent hours talking in his office and he would tell me how I should improve when I struggled to score goals.

“He reassured me and on the field taught me different ways of playing, which really helped me in the long run. I’ve improved so much thanks to him.”

Italy are second in Group G in European qualifying for Russia 2018, behind Spain on goal difference and ahead of third-placed Israel by a point. The only World Cup La Nazionale failed to qualify for – they did not enter the race for Uruguay 1930 – was Sweden 1958, when a team including Juan Alberto Schiaffino, Alcides Ghiggia and Dino da Costa were pipped to a ticket by Northern Ireland.