x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Luca Toni enjoying an Italian renaissance in Florence

The former Al Nasr striker has been rejuvenated since returning to Italy with Fiorentina, writes Ian Hawkey.

Luca Toni, the Fiorentina striker, is currently with his 14th different club. Gabriele Maltinti / Getty Images
Luca Toni, the Fiorentina striker, is currently with his 14th different club. Gabriele Maltinti / Getty Images

At the end of last week, Luca Toni was talking on local radio in Florence. In Italy, this can often be as sure a sign as empty panettone boxes piled up in residential dustbins after Christmas that a winter transfer window has opened. Toni, as followers of Al Nasr will know, is one of the game's most prolific leapers through transfer windows. In five of the last six periods of trading, he has moved club.

The 35-year-old striker, though, was telling listeners about a possible contract extension rather than hinting at a desire to pack his suitcase. Since leaving the UAE last summer, Toni has had a relatively happy time at Fiorentina, the employer among the 14 he has collected in his career which he is most prone to refer to as closest to his heart. Toni, a late developer, commanded his first eight figure transfer fee - around €8 million (Dh39.3m) - when he joined Fiorentina from Palermo as a 28 year old.

A year later, in 2006, he was winning a World Cup with Italy, and 12 months after that he signed for Bayern Munich where he enjoyed further success before dropping suddenly from favour. The zig-zag wanderings then began.

Six months at Roma; half a season with Genoa; 12 months at Juventus, then the Al Nasr stint on which he has looked back, publicly, with a sneer. The Pro-League is "not true football" he told the Corriere della Sera.

His return to Serie A has been satisfactory for a Fiorentina still pressing for a top-three finish in Serie A, and with that a Uefa Champions League berth. They are also aiming, tonight, against Roma, for a semi-final place in the Coppa Italia. Toni has six goals from 10 starts so far this season, so he is entitled to be talking about extending a deal which expires in June.

But Fiorentina are looking beyond Toni, too. They have taken a studied gamble in the current transfer window by signing Giuseppe Rossi, the Italy international striker, from Villarreal.

It is a gamble because Rossi has been out injured since last April, a setback that cost him his place at Euro 2012. He will not be back in action before March, at least.

But if he recovers all his abilities, the €10m Fiorentina have paid for him will look a bargain. Rossi and Toni are different sorts of striker. "We would work well together," said Toni.

But a fit Rossi is more likely to shift the big veteran more often to the bench. So do not count too heavily against the wanderer moving on again this year - only probably not back to the UAE.

 

sports@thenational.ae

twitter Follow us @SprtNationalUAE