Fritti scampi et chianti calamari, Luca sei per me... NUMERO UNO!
Cannelloni, Luca Toni, pepperoni, Luca sei per me... NUMERO UNO!
You’re welcome, now you’re stuck with this (amazing if I’m being honest) song for the rest of the day, or perhaps even the entire COVID-19 outbreak. Whatever helps to ease the burden, right?
Now, since Serie A is suspended, and on a bigger scale the entire world of football has gone AWOL, we have quite some spare time to ponder over the past. To mull over Roma’s recent history, including a whole lot of What if’s? For example: Luca Toni.
A couple of days ago it was the tenth anniversary of THAT Luca Toni goal against Inter Milan. You know, the magical 2-1 win against Mourinho’s boys which saw their lead at the top reduced to one single point. A lot has already been said about that moment. The beauty of it, the timing, the Taddei assist, the ‘Look mommy, I’m a monkey!’ celebration of Daniele De Rossi...
But I’d like to take a closer look at the bigger picture here. Luca Toni scored 5 goals in 15 games and his deal was one smart piece of transfer business. The six-month-loan gave Luca Toni wings and you can’t deny the big hit-man was one of the vital Roman pieces in the hunt for that Scudetto 2009-2010. Sadly, Roma missed the title by a mere two points after an amazing comeback under Claudio Ranieri.
Surprisingly, the 33-year-old Toni didn’t stay after May and went back to Bayern, who terminated his contract a couple of weeks later. Shortly after the termination, Toni joined Genoa.
What if Luca and Roma didn’t part ways 10 years ago? What if Luca stayed on board for 2010-2011 and perhaps even longer?
I first looked up the results between 2010-2013 and, boy, Roma could have used some Luca Toni! Sixth in 2011, seventh in 2012 and sixth in 2013. Osvaldo, Borriello, Vucinic, Borini and Destro all tried to ease the pain but Roma really missed a seasoned hit-man. A veteran. A 20/25 goal per season player. Osvaldo did score 27 goals in two seasons for Roma but was a nutcase and a loose cannon.
While Luca was already in his 30s, his presence could have helped Roma to climb higher than 6th-7th place. Toni and Totti had a great understanding and there was mutual respect. Francesco was still going strong those days while De Rossi was nearing the peak of his career. In 2010-2011 we also had JSB, Juan, Mexes, Pizarro, Riise, Taddei, Perrotta, Burdisso, Vucinic, Cassetti, Brighi, and later on we brought in Pjanic, Castan, Balzaretti etc. The pieces were all in place to deliver a ton-load of assists and love to Luca.
Although Toni’s best years were behind him (Palermo, Fiorentina, Bayern), his experience and predator instinct in the box would have surely lead to say 10-15 goals per season if you’d ask me.
Instead, Roma had Baptista, Okaka and Adriano in 2010-2011. In 2011-2012 a disappointing Bojan and Borini, mixed with 19-year-old spring chicken Lamela. In 2012-2013, Osvaldo exploded but there were no real alternatives on the bench (unless Destro or Nico Lopez were secretly the poster boys in your bed room).
Remember Luca Toni was a big name back then who used to score with his eyes closed. Age wasn’t a problem for him, he just had to wait and strike in the right place, at the right time. That was his job and he was mighty fine doing so. Class is eternal, no matter if you’re 18 or 38.
What annoys me the most in this whole matter is how things ended up. Luca’s loan simply ended and he went back to Germany. But he was a free agent just one month later. There were no financial disputes with another team, no heavy contracts to overcome, no legal actions or other bullshit. Luca Toni was a God damn FREE AGENT in 2010 and even then Roma couldn’t lure him to the Capital. Why?
Roma had an advantage. Toni was fresh from a six-month-spell in Rome and was already getting accustomed to life in the Eternal City. Totti was there, De Rossi, Perotta too, his buddies from the World Cup 2006. Toni was a free man, ready to sign anywhere he liked and Roma was on the front row like screaming 14-year-olds during a Billy Eilish concert, so close they could almost touch her green hair. And still Luca didn’t prolong his stay at Rome.
Toni went on to play for Genoa (oh yes, a much bigger club than Roma), Juve (ugh, of all teams), Al Nasr (sorry, who?) and then a return to his old love Fiorentina (ok, I can understand that move).
Yet Luca kept one of his finest moments for last. Between 2013 and 2016 he played for Hellas Verona and scored an amazing 48 goals in Serie A in 95 games. He even ended as top scorer in 2014-2015, alongside Icardi, who was born 16 years later than Luca. I guess you can teach an old dog new tricks.
During his entire career, Toni was a guarantee for goals, whether it was in Firenze, Brescia, Verona, Palermo, München or Rome. I’m no Nostradamus but with a little help from Toni, Roma might have added a Coppa Italia or, who knows, a fourth Scudetto to its palmares. Was money a problem back then? If Genoa or Fiorentina could manage it, why not the Giallorossi?
Now, of course there are some things we’ll never know for sure if Luca did remain at Roma after 2010. Would he stay healthy or tear 100 ACL’s? Would a guy like Zeman or Luis Enrique give him enough minutes? Would he be as motivated in Rome as in Verona? Would his higher wages eventually become a problem?
Alas, we’ll never know for sure but let it be a clear lesson for Roma’s management in the near future. If there’s ever a possibility to bring in a proven hit-man for free who was already in your ranks for six months, for Christ sake don’t lose him!
I guess all that’s left for us are those beautiful, unforgettable six months and one hell of a song, but that missed opportunity does hurt quite a bit.
C’mon, one more in honor of Luca.
Mozzarella, Mortadella, mit Nutella
Luca, sei per me NUMERO UNO!