Straight from the dark heart of Italy
He may have the most annoying goal celebrations in football, a ungainly frame and an unruly hairstyle, but it’s good to see him all smiles again.
No, not Ronaldinho – Luca Toni.
The Brazilian may have been grabbing the headlines with his hat-trick for AC Milan against Siena but big Luca’s brace for AS Roma against Genoa takes some knocking as the Moment Of The Weekend.
For some time it has been knocks of a different kind for the likeable and increasingly "former" Italy international.
Laughed out of Germany – but at least no longer forced to wear a lederhosen and drink copious amounts of beer at Bayern Munich get-togethers – Toni has found comfort back in the bosom of his homeland.
His arrival in the Eternal City in the early days of the transfer market was timely to say the least.
Claudio Ranieri was facing another spell of Francesco Totti on the sidelines and rather than contemplate having to field Julio “The Beast” Baptista (surely an nickname heavy with irony), the coach implored the chain-smoking Rosella Sensi to at least take Toni on loan.
Bayern were so glad to get rid of the big layabout in the stands that they even promised Roma that they could keep him if they wanted and pay him whatever they could.
All the Romans had to do was find a shirt big enough and they had a ready-made target-man.
They haven’t seen such a strapping sort wearing the yellow and red in the capital since another hirsute front-man – Gabriel Batistuta – was knocking them over back in the days when Roma were champions under Fabio Capello.
The jury was out on whether Toni could cut it anymore, but Francesco Totti’s ongoing knee problems enabled Ranieri to throw the former Palermo and Fiorentina man straight into the fray.
The first outing was a mere 10 minutes at Cagliari – in which time he seemed to have carried his heavy burden of ill-fortune back from Bavaria – as Roma contrived to throw away a 2-0 lead in the last minute to draw 2-2.
The second outing saw the team forced to play with 10 men for 80 minutes when goalkeeper Alexander Doni was sent off – and Toni was left to plough the lonely furrow with little support as Mirko Vucinic was the unfortunate attacker to make way for the reserve goalkeeper.
No such mishaps yesterday – and with Vucinic at his impish best while Simone Perrotta and Matteo Brighi made telling runs from deep, Toni thrived as the focal point of the Roman assault on the Genoa backline.
At one stage, diminutive daisycutting David Pizarro hoisted a Garryowen deep into the opposition half which the big man took down on his chest to a standing ovation from the home crowd.
Even the usually-sulky-if-he-isn’t-playing-and-sometimes-when-he-is Totti was on his feet when Toni finally found the back of the net just before half-time after missing two easy chances early on.
With the duck broken from a tap-in, it was a more typical powerful header for his second and Roma’s third to kill off the game – and give Marcello Lippi something to mull over.
Marco Borriello is in great form at AC Milan, Alessandro Matri has been on a good run with Cagliari but Toni is still the most instinct finisher there is – he just wasn’t given the chance to demonstrate that this season in the Bundesliga.
On top of that, he has been to the well once before with Lippi and no doubt the Azzurri coach will be hoping that Totti is back soon to help Toni keep hitting the back of the net.
Who knows, it could be the To-To show in South Africa...
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