For the first time since 2001-02, and for only the ninth time in Serie A history, the Capocannoniere title will be shared by more than one man, writes Dave Stacey.
The two top scorers in Serie A 2014-15 couldn’t be more contrasting, with evergreen veteran Hellas Verona striker Luca Toni the oldest ever winner and fresh-faced Argentinean Mauro Icardi the youngest since Paolo Rossi in 1978.
The award came down to a three-way battle, with Juventus’ Carlos Tevez also in the mix and facing Toni’s Verona in Week 38, whilst Icardi was up against Empoli at San Siro. On a remarkable final weekend, Toni had to wait 24 hours to see whether his 22nd goal of the season in the 2-2 draw with Juventus would be enough to win the crown outright. It wasn’t, with Icardi netting a brace to draw level. Tevez missed a penalty in the final round of action, as he ended on 20 for the season.
The resurgence of Luca Toni has been remarkable. After an ill-fated spell with Emirati side Al Nasr, the man who had starred during Italy’s World Cup victory of 2006 had returned to the peninsula looking a shadow of his former self. Now, at the age of 38, Toni has surpassed the achievement of Dario Hubner, previously the oldest Capocannoniere victor, when he shared 24 goals with David Trezeguet at the age of 35 in 2001-02, and he has also become the first ever Gialloblu to win the award.
A natural born goal scorer, Toni also holds top scorer awards in the UEFA Cup, Bundesliga and Serie B, as well as reaching the 150 Serie A goal mark, ensuring he now sits comfortably in 25th place in the all-time leader board. This season's tally of 22 came at a rate of one every 150 minutes, whilst his two-season haul of 42 has also entered him into Verona’s record books, becoming the club’s top-flight leading marksman along the way.
After the final game of the season, Toni revealed the simple secret that breathed fresh life in to his career: “I live in Verona, a wonderful city, my family like it here too and I feel good. When I take to the pitch I feel like a kid again.”
It all began way back in October 2000, a 22-year-old Toni grabbing a consolation for Vicenza whilst going down 1-2 to Atalanta. A promising contribution of nine goals in 31 appearances as the Biancorossi were relegated to Serie B earned Toni an extended stay in the top flight with Brescia and the opportunity to learn from one of the greatest strikers in Italian football history, Roberto Baggio.
Toni, however, dropped down to Serie B with Palermo in 2003, helping the Sicilian’s to promotion and earning a move to Fiorentina. 31 goals in 38 starts for Viola ensured Toni his first Capocannoniere title in 2005-06, becoming the first - and still latest - player to break the 30-goal mark in what is now 56 seasons. A successful spell in Germany with Bayern Munich followed the World Cup triumph, before a return to the peninsula with Roma, Genoa and Juventus brought mixed results and the move to Al Nasr. Personal tragedy brought Toni home to Fiorentina, before Andrea Mandorlini built his Scaligeri side around the target man.
Despite Toni’s excellent performances last season, he didn’t figure in many people’s list for potential Capocannoniere Kings at the beginning of this campaign, an opinion that appeared justified after 21 appearances yielded just six goals. As a testament to the longevity of Toni’s career, though, the following 17 saw a return of 16 as the Gialloblu ensured another season of top-flight football next year.
Perhaps the most fitting tribute to Toni came from his Coach, Mandorlini who enthused, “He is a real champion and deserves to be Capocannoniere.”
This is only 22-year-old Icardi’s third season in the Italian top flight, meanwhile, and, like Toni, he has come good in the final months of the season. There can be no doubting the influence new Inter Coach Roberto Mancini has had on the young Argentine, with 16 of the youngster’s total coming since his arrival in mid-November.
It’s not just his poaching prowess that has improved, however, with Mancini insisting on Icardi becoming a modern forward. His work rate has since grown and he contributed to nearly half of Inter’s goals this season, with strikes coming against big rivals Juventus, former club Sampdoria, Napoli and Roma.
Icardi becomes the first Argentine to win the crown since Hernan Crespo grabbed 26 for Lazio in 2000-01 and he joins Crespo, Diego Maradona and Gabriel Batistuta as a modern-day Argentine Capocannoniere winner. Some achievement.
With his personal life seemingly more settled, it remains to be seen whether Icardi decides his future is with the Nerazzurri, something that will keep the club’s fans and Coach awake at night. The last three Capocannoniere, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Edinson Cavani and Ciro Immobile, were all immediately poached by overseas powerhouses. With Inter failing to qualify for Europe, Mancini will be praying the mantra ‘bad things happen in threes’ is true.