ROME— Former Golden Boot winner Salvatore “Toto” Schillaci has tipped Italy striker Ciro Immobile to emulate his heroics and be the surprise star of the World Cup in Brazil.
Schillaci came from nowhere to score six goals for Italy in the 1990 World Cup, and the former Juventus and Inter Milan striker can see the similarities between himself and Immobile, who scored a hat-trick in the Azzurri's 5-3 win over Brazilian club side Fluminense on Sunday.
“There are the right conditions for Immobile to be [coach Cesare] Prandelli's trump card. He has played and scored a lot this season, he is in excellent shape and has great enthusiasm just as I had in 1990,” Schillaci, 49, told the Corriere dello Sport.
“He is fast, sees the goal like few others and he does not have the spotlight on him.”
Italy begins its Group D campaign against England in Manaus on Saturday, and there is a growing desire in Italy for the exciting Immobile to feature in the starting line-up even though Prandelli prefers AC Milan striker Mario Balotelli.
Immobile was in prolific form in Serie A last season, scoring 22 goals for Torino, who finished seventh in the league before obtaining a Europa League berth after sixth-placed Parma were denied a UEFA license for financial irregularities.
The 24-year-old's form led to a big money move to German giants Borussia Dortmund, who will no doubt view the reported $15.6 million transfer fee as a bargain should he shine at the World Cup like Schillaci did.
Prandelli opened the door to Immobile by comparing him with Schillaci, but then went on to insist that playing two up front was not the right fit for a team with as many quality midfielders as Italy have.
“I made a comparison with Schillaci because in 1990, he was considered by everyone as the fifth striker but he went on to become [the] top scorer,” Prandelli said on Monday. “That shows that you need to prepare mentally for every chance you have.”
Prandelli prefers Balotelli as his starting center-forward, but he said he also is open to experiment with players and formations during matches, meaning there still was space for Immobile to make an impression.
“Could he start in place of Balotelli? There are only a few players in the team with guaranteed starting places, such as [Andrea] Pirlo and [Gianluigi] Buffon,” added Schillaci. “Immobile needs to keep his feet on the ground and not get too excited, but despite having little international experience he can certainly make an impression.”