On-song Toni strikes the right note

Bello e impossibile, gorgeous and impossible, was a 1986 hit for Italian rock goddess Gianna Nannini. Luca Toni was just nine at the time, and like all budding Tifosi, presumably dreamed of fame and glory on the world footballing stage. It has taken 20 years, but the striker from Pavullo nel Frignano in Modena has well and truly made it, achieving the crowning glory of his career to date with a winners' medal at the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™.

As of the 2007/08 campaign, Nannini's ditty has rung out around the FIFA World Cup Arena in Munich every time the Bayern number nine hits the target. The stadium audio producer has played Bello e impossibile 11 times in the Bundesliga, six times in the UEFA Cup, and twice in the German Cup, accompanying Toni's trademark goal celebration, a hand cupped to his ear with an unscrewing motion said to indicate: Avete capito? - 'did you get that?'

Much-travelled late developer
Toni certainly fits into the late developer category of professional footballer, spending his early years wandering the second and third tiers of the Italian domestic game before finally getting his chance in Serie A at the age of 23, although he initially made little impact in spells with relegation-threatened Vicenza and Brescia. He partnered the legendary Roberto Baggio in Brescia but ultimately lost his place in the team, choosing to drop a division and try his luck with Serie B outfit Palermo.

As things turned out, it was a case of taking one step back but two forward for the man whose full name is Luca Toni Varchetta Delle Cave. In 78 appearances for the Sicilians, Toni contributed 50 goals as Palermo marched their way into Serie A.

The striker then joined the elite in 2005/06 with a switch to Fiorentina. In his first season in Florence, Toni topped the Serie A goalscoring charts with the astounding total of 31 goals, also earning him the prized Golden Shoe as Europe's leading goalgetter. The prolific strike-rate which propelled him to fame in Palermo continued with his move to Tuscany. In two seasons with Fiorentina, the striker rattled up 47 goals in 67 games, putting the biggest names on the continent on alert once and for all.

Second Italian in Germany
Bayern emerged triumphant in the race for Toni's services in the 2007 close season, signing the 1.94m / 6 ft 4 in striker for €11 million and making him only the second Italian to swap Serie A for the Bundesliga. "The club has invested a lot of money, and I want to repay it. My top priority is to score as many goals as I can," he declared at his unveiling in Munich, and he has been as good as his word. Il Bomber, as the Italian press has taken to calling him in a tribute to German strike legend Gerd Muller, has lost none of his potency on moving country.

Germany's most successful club have reaped the benefits of Toni's skills since the very first day of the season. Hardly a model athlete at first sight, Toni possesses the proverbial great touch for a big man, provides a permanently menacing presence in and around his opponents' box, and boasts an unparalleled poacher's nose for goal possessed of very few former or current stars.

It is rare indeed that Toni comes off the field without a goal to his name. The likeable Italian has scored 36 times in 42 appearances so far, including 21 in 28 Bundesliga outings, to lead the German scoring charts by a street from Kevin Kuranyi and Mario Gomez on 15 apiece. The 30-year-old's tally has taken Bayern to the brink of a 21st domestic league title, and the men from Munich have already provided Toni with the first two trophies of his club career, the pre-season League Cup, and the DFB German Cup, where the Italian supplied both goals in a 2-1 extra-time victory over Borussia Dortmund.

Aiming for Zenit

The man whose long-term partner is Italian supermodel Marta Cechetto has cut a dash on the European stage too, notching ten goals in as many UEFA Cup outings, including four in Bayern's 6-0 demolition of Aris Salonika at the group stage and a brace on 115 and 120 minutes away to Getafe in the quarter-finals. Suspension prevented the Italian from appearing in Munich's 1-1 home draw with Zenit Saint Petersburg in the semi-final first leg, a match in which the Bavarians wasted a string of decent first-half openings. Toni is back for Thursday's return, determined to add to his tally for the competition.

Bayern coach Ottmar Hitzfeld, yearning to round off his second spell in Munich with a treble of the league and Cup double and the UEFA Cup, is naturally delighted at the big man's return. "Toni's presence on the field is important to us, but also because he needs very few chances to score," Hitzfeld told the club's official website. General manager Uli Hoeness is equally aware of the summer signing's importance to the team: "We're definitely a better side with Luca," the former striker is quoted as saying.

Bayern are probably still favourites to make the final, as they have yet to lose away from home in the UEFA Cup and have scored at least once in every away game. As always, Luca Toni will give his all in the quest for goals, aiming to maintain his goal-a-game strike rate, or even improve on it.