Luca Toni is an Italian former professional footballer who played as a striker. He also was a sporting director (director of football) for Verona. Something of a footballing nomad, at club level, Toni played for twelve different Italian teams throughout his career. A late bloomer, he spent several seasons in the lower divisions of Italian football, as well as promising spells with minor Serie A clubs Vicenza and Brescia, before finally making his breakthrough with Palermo: he helped the team to Serie A promotion during the 2003–04 season by winning the Serie B title, and was the league’s top scorer with 30 goals; the following season, he helped the club qualify for Europe, scoring 20 goals in Serie A. After two prolific seasons with Fiorentina, Toni also spent three seasons with German side Bayern Munich, where he helped the club to a domestic treble during the 2007–08 season, also reaching the UEFA Cup semi-finals; after falling out with the club’s manager during his third season with the team, and being demoted to the reserve squad, he later returned to Italy on loan with Roma in 2010, and subsequently had spells with Genoa and Juventus. In 2012, he played for Al-Nasr Dubai SC, in the UAE Arabian Gulf League, but returned to Fiorentina for a season later that year. He retired in 2016, after three seasons with Verona, the last as team captain. At international level, he represented the Italian national team on 47 occasions, scoring 16 goals. He made his international debut in 2004 and took part at the 2006 FIFA World Cup, UEFA Euro 2008, and the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup with Italy; he most notably contributed to Italy’s 2006 World Cup victory, as he scored twice and was elected to the tournament’s All-star team. A prolific goalscorer, Toni scored over 300 goals throughout his career, and is one of the top-five highest scoring Italians in all competitions. In addition to the team medals he has collected, he also won several individual honours: during his first spell with Fiorentina, he won the Capocannoniere (Serie A top scorer) award during the 2005–06 season, in which he scored 31 goals (the most goals in a Serie A season since 1958–59), which also earned him the European Golden Shoe, becoming the first Italian player ever to win the award; he was also the league’s joint top scorer in the 2014–15 Serie A season, in which he became the oldest player to win the award at the age of 38, with 22 goals. Toni also finished as top scorer in the 2007–08 Bundesliga, with 24 goals, and in the 2007–08 UEFA Cup, with 10 goals.
ITALY NATIONAL TEAM
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Toni was called up to the 23-man Italian squad for UEFA Euro 2008 by manager Roberto Donadoni, but his form in the tournament was disappointing, as he failed to score; he managed a goal in Italy’s second group match against Romania, but it was incorrectly disallowed for offside, as Italy drew the match 1–1. Toni’s main contribution for the team was winning a decisive penalty kick in the final group match against France, which ended 2–0, and allowed the Italians to progress to the knock-out round. Italy then bowed out of the tournament on penalties to eventual champions Spain in the quarter-final, following a 0–0 draw after extra-time. Despite disappointing at Euro 2008, Toni was called up by returning coach Marcello Lippi for Italy’s first two 2010 FIFA World Cup qualifiers
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A prolific goal-scorer, Toni was a traditional centre-forward, who excelled in the air and acrobatically; although in his youth he was known for his attacking movement, which allowed him to play anywhere along the front-line or off of his team-mates, he mainly operated in the penalty area in his later career, as he lost his pace and his work-rate decreased. Although naturally right footed, he was an accurate finisher with both feet, and an excellent penalty taker. Although his physical, opportunistic, “goal-poaching” style of play was at times criticised as unrefined and unorthodox, due to his lack of notable technical skills, he also drew praise throughout his career for his leadership and ability to utilise his height, solid first touch, and strong physique to win aerial challenges, hold up the ball for his team-mates, and provide them with assists when playing with his back to goal, in addition to his ability to score goals himself. His strength, aerial prowess, and power saw him become one of the best ever headers of the ball in the Italian League. Writing for The Guardian, Tom Mason has said of his play, “His retirement marks the end of not only a remarkable career, but of a whole breed of striker…he seems to be a relic of an out-dated and discredited ideology. In a world where forwards are the first line of defense, where high-intensity pressing and sharp bursts of energy are a prerequisite for strikers, there seems to be little room for players in the mold of Luca Toni. Ill-equipped for a fast-paced counter-attack, unlikely to trouble defenders in behind, his domain is the 18-yard box and little outside it.” In the final season of his career, Toni was described as “the last great Italian centre-forward” by Italian sports newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport.
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Toni scored 16 goals in 47 appearances for the Italy national football team. He received his first international call-up in August 2004 under manager Marcello Lippi, and subsequently made his debut for the Italian national team as a substitute on 18 August 2004, in a 2–0 friendly defeat against Iceland. He scored his first international goal on 4 September 2004, after coming off the bench in a 2–1 home win against Norway, in a World Cup Qualifying match.
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Toni was selected to Italy’s 23-man 2006 World Cup squad, and was given the number 9 shirt. In Italy’s opening match against Ghana, he hit the crossbar as Italy won 2–0, and he later scored two goals in the quarter-finals against Ukraine on 30 June, his only goals of the tournament, as Italy won 3–0 to advance to the semi-finals against the hosts Germany. In the final against France, he hit the crossbar with a powerful header and later netted another header, although the goal was disallowed as the attempt was incorrectly ruled offside. Italy eventually defeated France 5–3 on penalties, after a 1–1 draw following extra-time, to win their fourth World Cup title; Toni finished the tournament as Italy’s top goal-scorer, alongside Marco Materazzi, with 2 goals, also producing 20 shots and hitting the crossbar twice. For his performances, Toni was named to the 2006 World Cup Team of the Tournament. Throughout his career, Toni was known for celebrating his goals by looking at his team-mates and rotating his right hand next to his ear, as if to say, “do you realise what it is I have just done?”
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On 30 May 2007, Bayern Munich chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge confirmed that Toni had signed a four-year contract with the club after agreeing to a deal worth €11.58 million with Fiorentina. On 7 June, Toni was presented at a Bayern press conference along with fellow new signing Franck Ribéry. Toni was given the number 9 shirt. One of the funniest moment during his Bayern’s career was when the German “artist” Matze Knop dedicated an half Italian and half German lyrics song to him. This is something that you can’t definitely miss.