Hellas Verona striker, formerly of Fiorentina and the Italian national team, announced yesterday that he will retire at the end of the season. This Sunday will be his final game as Verona takes on Juventus at the Stadio Bentegodi; Toni will not take part in their final away game.
This season, which the striker calls the worst of his career, has been tough for both Toni and Verona, as the former only scored 5 goals and has been unable to keep his club from relegation. This comes one year after Toni was the joint top scorer in Serie A, becoming the oldest player to win the Golden Boot at 38.
As described in an article by James Horncastle that pays more tribute to the striker than I am capable of, La Gazzetta dello Sport hailed Toni as the "the last great Italian centre-forward," as Toni may be the last truly world class traditional number 9 the peninsula has produced, and he had some of his finest years in Firenze.
A late bloomer, Toni wasn't recognized for his talent until he scored 30 goals for Palermo in Serie B in 2003-2004, followed by 20 goals the next year in Serie A. The next year, Fiorentina purchased him for €10M.
The 2005-2006 season was a career year for both Toni and the still newly revived Fiorentina, as Toni scored 31 goals in 38 games and became the first player to break the 30 goals barrier in Italy since Antonio Angelillo in 1959 and the first Italian ever to win the European Golden Boot. Toni would go on to win the World Cup with Italy that summer.
Fiorentina made their return to Serie A in 2004 and after a year of fighting off relegation, Cesare Prandelli built the team around Toni for the 2005-2006 season, and the Viola would finish in 9th place mainly by kicking the ball up to Toni, who would use his power to overwhelm defenses. The next year Toni would be partnered with Adrian Mutu, who would finish with 16 goals each. The partnership with Mutu never realized its true potential however; Toni struggled with injury and adaptation as Fiorentina shifted to a more skillful game as their budget increased.
Toni was sold to Bayern Munich following promises he would not sign for one of the big Italian clubs. In his first season in Bavaria, he scored 24 goals and was the top scorer in the Bundesliga; fans celebrated him with his own theme song:
In the 2008-2009 season, Toni struggled with an achilles tendon injury but remained the team top scorer. His Bayern Munich career would end on a relative low note however, as he was replaced by Mario Gomez and pushed out of the club by Louis van Gaal, leading to a return to Serie A on loan with Roma in December 2009.
Forgettable spells at Genoa and Juventus followed, and in 2012 Toni signed with UAE club Al Nasr for what looked like a victory lap. Toni considered retirement that year following the tragic miscarriage of his girlfriend Marta Cecchetto, however she convinced him to continue on.
Toni would get a second lease on Serie A life after the Dimitar Berbatov fiasco left Fiorentina in desperate need for a striker. On August 31, 2012, Fiorentina would resign their old striker at the end of the transfer window in what appeared to a typical panic move for a finished player. Although not a regular starter, Toni managed to score 8 goals in 27 Serie A games that year; this might not be comparable to his previous exploits, but on Vincenzo Montella's team that struggled for goals, it proved to be vital to their 4th place finish and showed that Toni still had a place in the league.
Fiorentina wanted Toni to retire to a management job after this, instead he signed with Hellas Verona, where he returned to his elite ways. In 2013-2014, he scored 20 goals, making him the second scorer in Serie A, and followed it with his Capocannoniere performance, scoring 22 league goals at the age of 38.
He ends his distinguished career as the last of his kind. For Fiorentina fans, Toni and his hand to ear celebration will always be associated as one of the highlights of the Prandelli era. Feel free to share your Toni memories below.