In this week’s Weekly Podium, Luca Toni takes the top prize for his brace against AC Milan, while Barcelona’s new manager gets the brick for his hypocrisy. Eric Krakauer takes a snapshot of the best and worst in European football.
Gold: Luca Toni (Hellas Verona)
AC Milan’s visit to the Bentegodi Stadium in Verona garnered international attention manly because the city’s mayor accused Mario Balotelli of being a troublemaker that elicits much of the vitriolic abuse that is aimed at him. At thirty-six, Luca Toni, was perhaps not even an afterthought.
That all changed after the ninety minutes were done. Toni’s two trademark headers sealed an improbable three points for his recently promoted side, and announced that the veteran striker still has enough in the tank to help keep Hellas in Serie A. Toni dedicated his two goals to his partner, Marta, and his daughter, Bianca. The dedications were tremendously important to Toni, who contemplated retirement just over a year ago, after Marta suffered a late pregnancy miscarriage.
A one time European Golden Shoe winner, the first Italian to ever win the award, Toni could still play a significant role in Serie A at his “advanced” age. At 6 foot 4, Toni has made a living a prototypical box striker, relying on his physicality to score goals. And score goals he has. He’s netted 111 goals in Seria A alone, and is just short of 300 for his career, which includes stints in Serie B, the Bundesliga (with Bayern Munich), and the Italian national team.
Hellas Verona’s win against AC Milan will not serve as a benchmark for the season. Chances are the club will teeter on the edge of relegation for most of it, scrapping for goals on a weekly basis. Fortunately, in Toni, Hellas has a player who has no problem getting dirty in order to put the ball in the back of the net - a breath of fresh air in a game where powerful, big strikers are becoming the exception rather than the rule.</p>