Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the Serie A season has been the return to form of Italian striker Luca Toni, who trails Torino’s Ciro Immobile by two goals the top of the league’s goal scoring charts.
The forward, who won the World Cup with the Italy team of 2006 where he scored twice in the tournament, has been in fine form having found the net 19 times for Verona – the same number of goals as Juventus’ Carlos Tevez.
Now, with Italy soon set to name their squad for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, the question beckons whether Toni is deserving of a place in the squad four years after being omitted by Marcelo Lippi for the showpiece in South Africa.
His career had appeared all but over after leaving Juventus for UAE pro-league side Al Nasri in 2012, seemingly resigned to the fact that his days as a leading force in the game were over.
But then came redemption. Former club Fiorentina came knocking after he scored seven times in 14 games over in the United Arab Emirates, and he impressed by netting eight times to guide the Italian side to the Europa League.
The newly promoted Verona then pounced, and he has been a revelation ever since. They now stand ninth in the table, having easily secured another season in the top flight of Italian football long ago.
Toni has not featured for Italy since Lippi’s snub, and even recently acknowledged he would most likely be watching the tournament at home after being snubbed for the country’s two day training camp at Coverciano.
However, his form must make him an appealing option. All the talk has been of a possible international return for Roma’s Francesco Totti, but the need for a striker of Toni’s pedigree and experience makes him a more appealing option.
His club have been extremely vocal in their support for him, with Verona fans heard chanting “Toni for Italy,” in recent weeks.
Italy’s current crop of strikers are mavericks that symbolise just how much manager Cesare Prandelli is prepared to gamble when it comes to delivering a fifth World Cup triumph in the summer.
Mario Balotelli’s reputation is well known, whilst Juventus loanee Dani Osvaldo should make the cut despite enduring a miserable season for both the Italy giants and parent club Southampton.
Immobile was given a first call-up for the friendly against Spain in March, but despite his goalscoring prowess could be another to miss out.
Toni is a risk worth taking. His goals, desire and experience could be key to determining if the country can achieve footballing glory once again.
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