Di Natale Antonio
Antonio ‘Totò’ Di Natale is an Italian former professional footballer who played as a forward. After being a member of the Empoli youth side since 1994, Di Natale started his professional career with the Empoli senior side in 1996, and remained with the club until 2004, aside from brief loan spells with Iperzola, Varese, and Viareggio. During his time with Empoli, he helped the club to achieve Serie A promotion during the 2001–02 Serie B season, scoring 16 goals. His breakthrough subsequently came during the 2002–03 Serie A season, as he scored 13 goals in the league and helped Empoli avoid relegation; despite being unable to find the net as regularly or save Empoli from relegation the following season, his performances and consistent goalscoring earned him a transfer to Udinese in 2004. During his time with Udinese, Di Natale’s skill, leadership and ability to both score and create many goals played a key role in helping the club to third and fourth-place finishes in Serie A, and achieve UEFA Champions League qualification. In 2007, he was named the club’s captain. Di Natale’s consistent goalscoring with Udinese saw him reach double figures for nine consecutive league seasons; he won the Serie A top goalscorer award in 2010 and 2011, and was also awarded the Serie A Italian Footballer of the Year award for his performances in 2010. A late bloomer, unlike most strikers, he enjoyed his most prolific seasons in front of goal well after the age of 30; between 2009 and 2011, Lionel Messi (82) and Cristiano Ronaldo (86) were the only two players to have scored more goals than Di Natale (67). In 2015, France Football rated him as one of the 10 best footballers in the world who are over the age of 36. Di Natale is Udinese’s top appearance holder and goal-scorer in Serie A, with 191 goals in 385 appearances, and in UEFA club competitions, with 17 goals in 37 appearances. With 209 goals, he is also the 6th highest goal-scorer in Serie A, and with 311 goals, he is the 8th highest scoring Italian player in all competitions, behind Silvio Piola, Alessandro Del Piero, Giuseppe Meazza, Roberto Baggio, Filippo Inzaghi, Francesco Totti, and Luca Toni. At international level, Di Natale also represented the Italy national football team 42 times between 2002 and 2012, scoring 11 goals. With Italy, he took part at UEFA Euro 2008, the 2010 FIFA World Cup, scoring a goal, and at UEFA Euro 2012, where he also scored a goal as Italy reached the final of the tournament.
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Despite being born in Naples, Antonio Di Natale made the move north for his footballing career, joining Empoli’s youth system. While at Empoli, he was loaned out three times, enjoying success with Viareggio in the 1998–99 campaign, where he scored 12 goals in 25 games for the Tuscan side. Upon his return to his parent club, he finally made his breakthrough into the first team squad and established himself as an integral member of the side. He netted six times in 25 appearances for Empoli during the 1999–2000 campaign, as Empoli finished in ninth place in Serie B. Empoli won promotion to the Serie A in 2002 after finishing in fourth place during the 2001–02 Serie B season with 67 points. They finished with 60 goals, the largest tally in the competition, and Di Natale finished as the club’s top goalscorer with 16 league goals. In Empoli’s first season back in the topflight, he helped the club fight off relegation by netting 13 times in the league. This included a hat-trick in Empoli’s 4–2 defeat of Reggina on 17 November 2002. The next season was less fortunate for Di Natale, who only scored five goals in the league. Following two seasons in the Serie A, Empoli were relegated back to the Serie B at the end of the 2003–04campaign.
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This shirt comes a friendly game before Fifa World Cup “South Africa 2010”. Di Natale took part at the 2010 FIFA World Cup, under manager Marcello Lippi, where he was given the iconic number 10 shirt. Italy was placed into Group F at the finals, drawing their first two group games by a score of 1–1 to Paraguay and New Zealand, respectively. In their final group game on 24 June 2010, he scored a goal in the 3–2 defeat against Slovakia, which resulted in Italy finishing bottom of its group.
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May 2010 saw the conclusion of Di Natale’s best-ever season, scoring 29 goals in Serie A, and contributing 54% of Udinese’s total goals. For his performances, he was voted Serie A Italian Footballer of the Year and finished as the top scorer in Serie A. He also received the Serie A Fair Play award for interrupting play in a match while Lazio’s Libor Kozák was injured, with Udinese down 3–2 late in the game. The 2009–10 season saw Di Natale finish as runner-up for the European Golden Shoe with Chelsea striker Didier Drogba on 29 goals, five behind FC Barcelona forward Lionel Messi. He also helped the club to reach the semi-finals of the Coppa Italia that season. Before the 2013–14 season Di Natale was offered a contract with an annual salary of €10 million by Chinese club Guangzhou Evergrande, which was coached by his former Italy manager Marcello Lippi at the time; however, he declined the offer and chose to stay with Udinese. While playing for Empoli, at the age of 19, Di Natale met his future wife, Ilenia Betti, whom he married on 15 June 2002; the couple have two sons together, Filippo and Diletta. In August 2010, he rejected a transfer to Italian giants Juventus because his children had grown up in Udine and his family was settled and enjoyed living there. Di Natale took financial responsibility for the disabled sister of Udinese teammate Piermario Morosini, who died on 14 April 2012 when he suffered sudden cardiac arrest while playing on loan for Livorno. Morosini’s death left his sister with no other living relatives.
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A quick, mobile, diminutive, and versatile player, gifted with good tactical intelligence and a lethal eye for goal, Di Natale was capable of playing anywhere along the front line; throughout his career he was deployed in the centre as a lone striker, out wide on the left in an attacking trident, or even in a deeper, creative, supporting role, due to his positional sense, vision, and ability to both score and create goals. He was mainly known for his pace, control, flair, technical skills, and sense of space in the area, as well as his ability to make attacking runs to beat the defensive line and subsequently finish off chances. Due to his opportunism, composure in front of goal, and ability to strike the ball well with either foot despite being naturally right-footed, he was able to score from any position on the pitch. Regarded as one of the best Italian forwards of his generation, Di Natale earned the prestigious Serie A Capocannoniere award — as Serie A’s top goalscorer — for the 2009–10 and 2010–11 seasons, also winning the AIC Serie A Italian Footballer of the Year award in 2010. In addition to his skill and goalscoring ability, Di Natale also stood out for his leadership, loyalty, work-rate, and longevity throughout his career. He was also an accurate free-kick and penalty taker.