I have made no secret about my absolute man-crush on Luca Toni, but those uncomfortable feelings he stirs within me stem from more than just his leading man good looks. The guy could play, and was arguably Italy’s best striker over the past 10 to 15 years. So when Roma snared him on loan from Bayern Munich on December 31, 2009, needless to say I was ringing in the New Year with aplomb.
Although Toni’s tenure with Roma was brief, it was productive, as he scored five goals in fifteen league matches. The site of Toni teaming up with Francesco Totti was enough to etch a permanent smile on all our faces, but alas, a long-term relationship wasn’t in the cards. After that brief six month stint in the capital, one in which Toni helped Roma come excruciatingly close to a Scudetto—they finished second to Inter by two god damn points—he returned to Munich, who summarily terminated his contract at the end of the 2009-2010 season.
Toni would go on to sign with Genoa, before making stops at Juventus and Al Nasr before resurrecting his career with Verona, where he nearly 50 goals for the Mastiffs before calling it quits in the spring of 2016. Why Roma never saw it fit, or never managed the cobble together the funds, to sign him again is beyond me.
So while Toni’s Roma career wasn’t long, it was instrumental. In an instant, he provided the finishing flourish Roma was so desperately craving that season, and on one night, Toni made the Scudetto dream as close as it’s been at any point since 2001.
Toni’s 72nd minute match winner narrowed the Scudetto gap between Inter Milan and Roma to one point...one point! With such a narrow gap and seven weeks to play, it sure seemed like Roma would finally topple their 2000s nemesis to earn their fourth title, but a loss to Sampdoria a month later would damn Roma to second place once more.
But for that one night, and in that one moment, Luca Toni made us believe in the impossible.