by Jack Stevens
As the race for the Seria A Capocannoniere (Golden Boot) comes to a close the youngest winner since Paolo Rossi in 1978 was crowned but due to a tie shared the award with the oldest ever winner. It is something that sums up the depth and range of talent in the Italian league nicely.
Whilst the big money Argentinians of the league, Carlos Tevez and Gonzalo Higuain, finished respectively in 3rd and 4th, it was the young forward for Inter Milan, Mauro Icardi (above) who finished joint for the prestigious award this year at only 22 years old. Icardi’s goals have been one of the only bright spots for Internazionale, who for the fourth time in a row failed to qualify for Champions League football; this just five years since winning the competition in 2010. After five Serie A victories in a row from 2006 to 2010, which ended with the Champions League victory, the giant fall from grace was hard to predict, but makes a bit more sense when you realize the ageing squads struggle to adapt with the new youthful presence of Seria A. With players like Esteban Cambiasso, Javier Zanetti, Walter Samuel and more leaving the squad since the dominance of the naughties, many of the younger replacements like Lorenzo Cristeig have failed to live up to expectations but Icardi has truly filled the mould left by former Argentinian striker and counter part Diego Milito.
Icardi isn’t a product of the Inter academy, but actually came through Barcelona’s La Masia in 2008 as part of the U-19 side before moving on loan to Sampdoria in 2011. With a record of over a goal every other game for the clubs second side, Icardi joined Sampdoria permanently for just €400,000. Once he fully broke into the first team in 2013, his goals helped boost Sampdoria to escape from relegation, which prompted Inter to come in for the young striker at the end of the season. The young Argentinian striker missed most of his first season due to injury, but in his first full season for the club, he showed his talent, scoring 22 goals, over a third of the goals scored from the Italian giants and now being watched weekly by some of the biggest scouts in England from clubs like Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea. Icardi has pledged his foreseeable future to Inter, but with no deal signed yet, could a Premier League move be coming in the future?
When Icardi was two years old, his rival for the Golden Boot Luca Toni, had began leading the line for third tier Italian side Modena, and as Icardi grew up, so did Toni’s reputation, winning the golden boot in Seria B before being given his big chance in Seria A at Fiorentina for the 2005/2006, in the world cup year. With Italy looking for a target man replacement after Christian Vieri’s retirement from international football, Toni was on the shortlist, and after a whooping 31 goals in 38 starts in his debut season, taking the Capocannoniere with ease, Toni was first choice for the Italy side in Berlin, who went on to win the tournament in a game more remembered for Zidanes final performance. It was a tournament in which not many goals were scored, and the Italy side themselves had more scorers then any other side, one of the only two who went on to get more then one goal at the tournament for Gli Azzurri was Luca Toni, who went on to lead the line for Italy for the next four years. Toni went on to make 47 performances for his nation, scoring 16 goals before retiring after not making the 2010 world cup squad.
During this time at club level, Toni moved on to Bayern Munich, scoring 58 in 88, before moving back to Italy in his later years, as a back up strikers for Roma, Genoa and Juventus, before a season back at Fiorentina where he again failed to impress and was released in 2013. At the age of 36, you would be forgiven for thinking Toni would either retire, or move to the US or the Middle East for a big money move. Instead Toni joined newly promoted Verona, in an aim to break expectations of his own performances and the club themselves who were tipped for relegation. Toni’s 20 goals helped push Verona into safety and even edged them close to a top half finish, with the club finishing 10th. Many predicted Verona to suffer from second season syndrome similar to Reading in the Premier League in 2007 who in their first season secured an 8th place finish before being relegated the next year. Verona managed survival with a 13th place finish, with Toni managing to go two better then his previous year with 22 goals, which looked to be enough to capture the Capocannoniere, before Icardi’s brace on the final day to give both the players a share of the Golden Boot.
The race for the Capocannoniere has been an exciting one, a word not often associated in the media with Italian football, but with these two players highlighting the fresh exciting batch of youth in Italy and the nostalgic feel of players from the past still playing like they’re ten years younger. With Juventus getting into the Champions League final, the first Italian side since Internazionale’s victory in 2009, and five Italian sides reaching the final sixteen of the Europa League, is Italian football set for another boom like in the 90’s, or will the big younger players coming through leave the country for the riches of England such as Balotelli and Coutinho in the last few years.