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Sunday April 21 2013
Di Natale best of his generation

With reports that Antonio Di Natale is set to sign a new contract at Udinese, Alex Mott waxes lyrical about the best goalscorer of his generation.

Gabriel Silva was there, on the left-hand side. A quick exchange of passes saw the Brazilian on the byline with very little on. In the corner of the 21-year-old’s eye though, he was there – like he always is. The Grand Old Man of the Stadio Friuli was stalking the penalty box, looking for an opportunity, any sniff at goal.

A looping cross came over from the youngster, leaving two Lazio defenders stranded, and with one turn of the body, Antonio Di Natale scissor-kicked a leaping volley into the ground and past Federico Marchetti.

It was the only goal of the game on Saturday as Udinese beat the capital club to lift themselves, momentarily at least, into sixth place and as a result a potential Europa League spot. It seemed impossible at Christmas, but the Zebrette are coming up from the outside to challenge for a top five place.

“Di Natale is a rare animal who can do things normal people cannot,” Coach Francesco Guidolin told reporters after the game yesterday.“He's a great player. I've never had one like him. I need him fresh in the box, so we can’t make him run too hard.”

It is a sentiment echoed by everyone who has worked with the forward over the years and speaks volumes of a man genuinely in love with his surroundings. If Barcelona are ‘Mas que un Club’ then Toto is certainly more than your average footballer.

No player in Italy has scored more goals over the past five years than the 35-year-old. For the past three seasons he’s scored 20 or more goals every time, and he’s set to make it four on the bounce with just two more strikes needed this time around. He was Capocannoniere in 2010 and 2011 – over Francesco Totti, over Zlatan Ibrahimovic, becoming the first player since Beppe Signori in the early nineties to achieve a Double. He was Italian Footballer of the Year for 2010 and he’s netted 170 times in Serie A – the 13th most ever.

All this for a tiny, provincial club in the misty north-east. Juventus have come calling on at least one occasion, but Di Natale has never sought the money or the fame that playing for one of Europe’s major teams brings. He said ‘no’ to the Old Lady – and that’s only endeared him more to the fans at the Stadio Friuli. Some consider him their best ever, and when you’ve led your team to two Champions League finishes, who’s to argue?

Italian national team boss Cesare Prandelli called him “an extraordinary player. He is one of those players that gives you a unique emotion.  He is currently one of the best strikers around.”

Reports of retirement at the end of the season seem to be way off the mark. The player himself has admitted that “the training sessions are beginning to weigh. But I still enjoy the game a lot.” However, President Giampaolo Pozzo is convinced he’ll stay for at least another year. “There is no problem with his renewal. Di Natale is a man of integrity – like Totti.”

Udinese have never had anyone like Di Natale. And they may never again. Goalscorers like him come around once in a blue moon – let’s enjoy him while we still can.

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Have your say...
Show the man some respect. Di natale is one of the greats. Especially the last 5yrs. Udinese is a money machine that produces great talents.
Di natale, sanchez , muriel and maybe vydra in the near future.

Also, they belong in EL football. I don't see roma, inter or lazio doing anything

- forza napoli
on the 20th May, 2013 at 1:48am
@forzanapoli

You mean how they showed us their ambitions in the Europa league this year? If you are going to play in Europe weather in Europa league or CL you should give your all, play the best you can. That goes for any club not just Napoli, What Napoli showed us this year in the EL was a disgrace. What Napoli did last year or couple years ago doesn't matter. In football what matters is the here and now. I don't hate Napoli but i have lost a lot of respect for them because of their Europa league showings. I know they deserve to play in the CL as they do play some of the most entertaining football in Italy. However you can't throw away Europa league just because it's not as prestigious as the CL.
on the 25th April, 2013 at 2:50am
Best of his generation? What generation would it be?

If I remember correctly, there's only one recent Italian striker most feared among all, and that is Filippo Inzaghi.

His records speak for itself, in the Serie-A, in UEFA Champions League, and the Italian national team.

Di Natale is a good player, yes, but certainly not the best of his generation.
on the 25th April, 2013 at 12:28am
@Juvefanatico

Napoli shouldn't make it to the champions league?
You're kidding me aren't you, because Napoli actually play fast quick football and actually scored three times past Bayern last seasons UCL whereas Juve couldn't score 1. Napoli were only beaten my chelsea and bayern munich last season, and they were the finalists showing how unlucky napoli were. If there was no Napoli, it'd be Milan, Juve and Fiorentina. Napoli are are better and have bigger amibitions in Europe than you think.
on the 23rd April, 2013 at 9:56pm
"Cabrelli

Except Ibra is not Italian.
on the 23rd April, 2013 at 3:34pm
Toto - you're nuts. Udinese live within their means, as all clubs should. they have a great structure. they develop players, get a good season or two out of them and sell them for lots of money. they don't have an oligarch or arm of credit to become a top three club so they hover on the fringes of success and do OKAY. Di Natale ais a legend for staying with them. Italy is one of the few leagues where the really good players are spread out a bit.
on the 23rd April, 2013 at 9:48am
He is one of the top 5 players of his generation in Italy, yes. Totti, Del Piero, Ibra, Di Natale, Pirlo, Cassano. His reputation would have been written in gold if he had taken at least one of his two chances against Spain in the euro final.
on the 23rd April, 2013 at 9:44am
He is a great footballer and at his age he is doing some incredible stuff but to call him the best of his generation would be blasphemous, first off you have totti and DEL PIERO and second he hasn't exactly kept this form all through his career, nor has he done anything for his country and nor has done anything in europe,Worth the recognition but calling him the best of his generation was a step too far
on the 22nd April, 2013 at 3:38pm
Udinese has the same business plan as Arsenal, make money!! Di Natatale isn't very good, as I remembered the many simple 1 v 1 against the keeper that he missed in international duties.A very good player that has everything you need to be a forward but not the best of his generation!!
on the 22nd April, 2013 at 1:26pm
Di Natale is a fantastic player and I am a huge fan of him. However, Francesco Totti and Alessandro Del Piero are just too much for him. The article indeed must have been written by someone who just recently started watching Serie A calico.
on the 22nd April, 2013 at 5:53am
Di Natale is a great player, he has had a decent career. Unfortunately on the big stage he has always disappeared. I don't like the saying that he is the best of his generation considering that players Del Piero and Totti are from the same generation. As for Udinese, along with Napoli they have become a disgrace in Europe. Hope neither makes it into Europe but Napoli in Europe is a certainty.
on the 21st April, 2013 at 6:13pm
I'd want to kill myself if Udinese get into Europe. They seem to have no desire to have success in Europe and even if they have great players, they just sell them in the summer and can't get through the group stages. Unbelievable how Udinese have gotten a cl play off in the last 2 years, and let alone couldn't win one. They need to realise if a small club gets in the europe, the league will never leapfrog the Bundesliga
on the 21st April, 2013 at 4:38pm
He really is a great player! He is both a great goal scorer & scorer of great goals. His technique, awareness, & movement is outstanding. I just wish that he would have reached this standard at an earlier age, (& not in the final stages of his career), he could have been a great International, & protagonist at a big club. As for Udinese, I also hope that they don't qualify for Europe. Their recent efforts have proven costly to Italian football.
on the 21st April, 2013 at 4:07pm
Big fish small pond. Where has Di Natale been the last 20 years to be the best of his generation? What a moronic statement to make. He has never performed well internationally and can't lift his team into CL and has no ambitions on his own. Decent player but will only succeed when the team plays through him, and on a big team he will disappear just like he does with the azzurri. Can't reiterate enough how stupid this article is. Written by someone who started watching calcio 4 years ago maybe?
on the 21st April, 2013 at 3:59pm
Di Natale is a player who would be in most starting line-ups in world football. Evan though he's been a loyal servant to Udinese, his talents are not in question. Right up there with the best strikers in world football in the last 5 years.

His recent "van basten-like" volley is one of those rare pieces of skill that only it seems he can pull off.
on the 21st April, 2013 at 2:36pm
As much as I respect Di Natale, with everything he has achieved in Serie A, he cannot be called the best of his generation.... That epithet is deservedly shared by 2 masters of Calcio : Alessandro Del Piero and Francesco Totti.... Have a great Sunday !!
on the 21st April, 2013 at 1:58pm
Mott for once gets it right. However, I hope to the high heavens that Udinese do not make european football. They are a disgrace as a football club with no ambition and will be a wasted space for Italy needing co-efficient points...
on the 21st April, 2013 at 1:22pm

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