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Serie A: Why is Ciro Immobile so underappreciated?

Football fans love to rave about Cristiano Ronaldo, Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland but there are some exceptional forwards across the continent who continue to be overlooked.

Among the most underrated strikers in Europe is Ciro Immobile.

The Italian turns 32 this weekend and, with the clock ticking on his top-flight career, it feels as though most of the football community fail to recognise his talent as a forward.

Only last summer he led the line for Euro 2020 champions Italy, scoring twice for his country on their way to the title but providing plenty in terms of his hold-up play and leadership from the front.

Nimble, quick but also a physical presence in the box, he is not what his name suggests and since joining Lazio in the 2015-16 season, Immobile has scored at least 20 league goals in four of his five completed seasons with the club.

The closest he has come to joining Europe's elite crop of forwards was in the 2019-20 campaign when he equalled the record for the most Serie A goals in a season with 36 strikes.

Stayed at Lazio

But despite some murmurs of interest in the striker, he stayed put at Lazio, with whom he has won the Coppa Italia and two Supercoppa Italiana titles.

And yet despite his decent scoring record for Lazio, Immobile has never made the top 20 at the annual Ballon d'or ceremony, although he almost certainly would have done had it taken place in 2020.

So why is he so often overlooked?

The most likely answer is that Immobile has done most of his great work inside Italy and when he did venture outside of his home country, he flopped.

Dortmund spell didn't work out

He managed only three goals in 24 matches in the Bundesliga after moving to Borussia Dortmund at the start of the 2014-15 campaign before firing twice in eight La Liga appearances during a loan spell with Sevilla.

Neither of those sides were on top form when Immobile played for them and so it seems a touch unfair for his ability as a player to be disregarded due to a couple of poor spells.

He nonetheless remains one of Serie A's most prolific forwards of all time and let us hope that when the curtain comes down on his career, he gets the respect he deserves.

La Liga: Aspas a better player than Liverpool tenure suggests

Those who do not follow La Liga may not be familiar with veteran forward Iago Aspas, who turns 35 this year, although he does have 14 Premier League appearances under his belt.

The Spaniard joined Liverpool for between £7million and £9 million at the start of the 2013-14 season but only scored once in his 15 appearances for the club. He was quickly written off and moved to Sevilla on loan but with an obligatory purchase clause.

But it is worth noting that the season Aspas spent at Anfield was the same campaign in which Luis Suarez was named Premier League Player of the Season with 31 goals in 33 matches, meaning Aspas did not exactly get many opportunities to operate as a lone forward.

Since rejoining Celta Vigo, however, he has thrived, reaching double figures in league goals in each of his seven seasons with the club since signing in 2015-16.

A Europa League winner, Aspas feels like a particularly misunderstood forward who could have made a name for himself in England's top flight had he joined a different club or moved in a different season.

Bundesliga: Croatian Kramaric is an underrated marksman

One member of Leicester City's 2015-16 title-winning squad many may have forgotten is Croatian forward Andrej Kramaric.

In that incredible campaign, Kramaric failed to work his way into a Leicester team who were all about consistency and were spearheaded by Jamie Vardy, who was in red-hot form.

He made only two league appearances for the Foxes, meaning he was ineligible for a winner's medal, and was sent out on loan to Hoffenheim midway through the campaign.

Kramaric showed immediate promise in the Bundesliga, bagging five goals in 15 matches. The German side consequently made the deal permanent.

And the rest is history, with Kramaric firing 77 goals in 145 league appearances for the club up until the end of the 2020-21 campaign.

This term form has eluded the Croatian but that should not take away from the fact he has been one of the Bundesliga's most powerful and consistent forwards of the last five years or so.

He was part of the Croatia side who defied expectations to reach the final of the 2018 World Cup in Russia, losing to France, and ultimately deserves more recognition for helping Hoffenheim evolve into a side with their sights set on European qualification each season.

Should he choose not to extend his current contract with the Bundesliga outfit, he would prove a valuable asset for most clubs across the continent's top divisions.

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