Of all the strikers Marcello Lippi has called upon in his time as Italy coach, Alberto Gilardino is without doubt the most technically adroit. While he might lack the aerial presence of Luca Toni and his left foot does not bear comparison with that of Christian Vieri, Gilardino is a genuine all-round forward and can pose a threat to even the best organised of defences.
At ease on either flank, the Fiorentina forward has plenty of pace, good heading ability and a fine appreciation of team play.
Gilardino played his first game in Serie A for Piacenza as a 17-year-old. Three years later he moved to Parma, making an impact at the highest level by scoring 50 goals in 96 appearances spread over three seasons. A first choice for the Italy U-21 side at the time, he struck 19 goals in 30 matches (a scoring record that still stands today) and helped the Azzurrini win the UEFA European Under-21 Championship and the bronze medal at the Athens 2004 Men's Olympic Football Tournament.
Lippi promoted him to the full national team in a 2-1 defeat of Norway in September 2004. Having become a regular fixture in the side, he scored against USA in the group phase of the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™ and set up Alessandro Del Piero for Italy's second goal in their semi-final win over Germany.
Despite making Gilardino captain for the first time in an October 2007 meeting with South Africa, Roberto Donadoni left him out of the squad for UEFA EURO 2008 following some unconvincing performances for AC Milan in what turned out to be his final season with the club. Having now switched to Fiorentina he has struck up a formidable partnership with Adrian Mutu, leading to a recall to the national set-up.