This season, various strikers are performing above expectations for small clubs, as Michael Cox notes...
As inequality within Europe’s top leagues has grown, it has become increasingly difficult for players from bottom-half clubs to claim the prestigious top goalscorer awards.
But this campaign, there's a handful of little guys rivalling more established players in the net-busting charts. Here’s a look at the top marksman for each bottom-half club in Europe’s major five leagues...
Luca Toni (18 goals, Verona)
The gentler pace of Serie A means attackers can perform perfectly well into their thirties – and nine years after winning the European Golden Boot, Luca Toni is still banging in the goals at Stadio Marcantonio Bentegodi.
In truth, Toni’s story is different to that of Francesco Totti, Alessandro Del Piero or Antonio Di Natale. While that trio remained in Italy and scored relentlessly for the same team every season, Toni’s journey has been more eventful. Verona are his 16th club, and he’s enjoyed two very different experiences outside Italy, with a spell at Bayern Munich and then a brief stint with Al-Nasr in the UAE.
Moving to the Middle East generally means a player has effectively retired, but Toni’s hunger to return to his homeland is admirable. In 2012 he rejoined Fiorentina, a sensible move considering his previous success in Florence – the fans were delighted that he returned, and he was happy to be Plan B at a club he loved.
But Toni was so effective as a Plan B, scoring eight goals, that he wanted more. He moved to Verona the next summer and has been in sensational form ever since, hitting 37 Serie A goals in two seasons.
Toni now lacks mobility and sometimes appears somewhat clumsy in front of goal. Yet he positions himself brilliantly, remains masterful in the air and still celebrates every goal like it’s his first. Despite turning 38 next month, there’s no reason the Italian won’t be around next season too.
Linked with: A surprise move to Brazil. But perhaps not so surprising considering his lengthy list of clubs.