The 50: Luca Toni (45)'s countdown to the greatest player of 2008 continues with the inclusion of Bayern striker and full international Luca Toni. The Italian closed the 2007-08 campaign in commendable fashion as he finished top scorer in two competitions...
50 - Ashley Young - Aston Villa, Premier League - Score: 1109
49 - Javier Zanetti - Internazionale, Serie A - Score: 1104
48 - Daniel Guiza - Fenerbahçe, Super Lig - Score: 1089
47 - Juninho Pernambucano - Olympique Lyonnais, Ligue 1 - Score: 1083
46 - Juan Román Riquelme - Boca Juniors, Argentine Apertura - Score: 1077

45- Luca Toni, FC Bayern, Bundesliga- Score 1064  

Toni, who was purchased by the Bavarian giants in 2007, lead the Bundesliga last season with 39 goals in all competitions to his credit. While being matched with Miroslav Klose has proven to be the marquis pairing in the Bundesliga, and Toni’s allure and fan appeal have been keeping him in the best form of his career.

Having signed an 11 million contract in May of 2007, Toni quickly began his goal scoring tare, and fast became a fan favorite. His impressive four goal haul against UEFA Cup group rivals Aris Thessaloniki only helped to solidify his role in the starting XI and catapult the lanky Italian to superstar status. 

Il Bomber to the Rescue

After the lengthy Bundesliga winter break, Toni made an impressive return to the pitch with a well placed brace late in the second half against Hansa Rostock.  Having scored nine goals in the first half of the 2007/08 campaign and posting only one multi goal game, 2008 was when the rubber truly met the road for the no 9.

An impressive 42nd-minute blast on the first match back from Christmas saw the Torschützenkönig give FC Bayern all three points away to Hansa Rostock. Toni, who had played a mediocre match by his standards, took a well played long ball to cap his Gerd Müller-esk finish. 

It wasn’t until two weeks later that Toni was able to truly pull ahead in the scorers tale. Dropping two important points at home to Werder Bremen the previous mach day, Bayern travelled to Hannover 96 where Luca was able to score all three goals of the match, netting Bayern a 3:0 win, which included a lucky bounce that allowed the 196-cm tall striker to easily head the ball past three Hannover defenders. 

Though one must admit that detailing each and every one of the twenty two goals scored before the summer would be impossible, if not improbable, his massive showing in the 2nd half of the Bundesliga speaks volumes itself.   

That, sadly, could not be said for Toni’s - and the Azzuri’s - performance in the 2008 European Championships. While Italy is notorious for beginning tournaments with relative complacency, they soon began to mount a sturdy run for the Championship, however their play in Austria and Switzerland left hoping for glimpses of 2006. Toni, who was to be the lynchpin of the Azzuri offence, had zero goals and one sadly disallowed against Romania.  

All told, Toni’s league exploits have truly been the stuff of legend.  Many could compare his style of play to that of German great and Bundesliga all time scoring leader Gerd Müller. Müller, who was infamously known for his ability to hit the back of the net from within the six yard box was skilled not only with both feet, but also with his head.  Toni, much like the German, who was also ironically nicknamed “the Bomber”, has a very odd knack of not only locating the ball when moving forward but also the ability to move past defenders, if only with a touch of luck. 

Many have criticized his lack of scoring in this half of the 2008-09 Bundesliga season as a product of trainer Jurgen Klinsmann’s new training regime. Toni, who has nine goals to finish off the fall half again, is nine behind the pace, but his consistency, marked by a six game goal scoring run, is helping the Bavarians cap a positive final two months. 

For Toni to keep his success on the field on track, he would only need to look as far as the his midfield partners for a constant flow of strong passes and a desire to score.  If 2009 is anything close to that of ’08, Christmas will be something special for the Munich faithful. 

Team Prizes:  
Bundesliga (2007-08)
German Cup (2007-08)
Individual Accolades:  
Torschützenkönig (Leading goal scorer-Bundesliga 2007-08)
UEFA Cup leading scorer (2007-08)

Peter Herrnreiter,