Created on 24-09-2007 at 00:00 AM
“We bought him to score goals,” Bayern general manager Uli Hoeneß deadpanned to reporters after Luca Toni struck the winner for Bayern against Belenenses in the UEFA Cup last Thursday. The official had more to say on the subject of the Italian newcomer: “And we can expect a lot more from him once he’s done some proper training.“
After five minutes of Sunday’s game in Karlsruhe, the striker gave a glimpse of what Hoeneß was hinting at when he expertly controlled Mark van Bommel’s high ball into the box with his right boot, before switching feet in one flowing movement to dink a delicate chip over onrushing KSC keeper Markus Miller and open the scoring.
Lithe and artistic
The manner of the goal confirmed that the 1.96m (6 ft 5 in) Toni’s somewhat ungainly stature masks very real skill on the ball. “He has an unbelievably good touch for such a big man. The way he brought the ball down and lobbed the keeper was sensational,” coach Ottmar Hitzfeld enthused on Monday after reviewing Luca’s lithe and artistic movement: “He’s quite a phenomenon.“
The Italian’s goal tally is also little short of phenomenal. The strike in Karlsruhe took him to five competitive goals so far this season, every single one the all-important opener. “Luca has won the World Cup, and his goalscoring quality tells you why. He doesn’t need many chances. He’s a born finisher,” Hitzfeld said in praise of his new centre-forward.
Toni central, Klose out wide
However, the Italian’s five goals in six appearances only make him the second-highest scorer at the club, behind strike partner Miroslav Klose on six goals in the same number of games. ‘Miro’ stabbed home a rebound to make the score 2-0 in Karlsruhe. “Klose is a constant menace too, but he likes to get out wide,” commented Hitzfeld, comparing the different attributes of his front two.
Toni plays the role of battering ram against the opposing defence, a quality appreciated by Hitzfeld almost as much as his ruthless finishing. “He’s always available to receive a pass. He often takes out two markers, hardly ever gives the ball away, and can only be stopped by a foul. He always gives us an option, which is vital for the way we like to attack,” the coach explained. Toni and Klose have chalked up two assists apiece so far.
Hoeneß looking for more
Hitzfeld is not surprised that the two summer signings have gelled in such a short space of time. “That was clear from pre-season. They got to know each other personally at our training camp and had some good talks,” Hitzfeld revealed. The Bayern coach praised his men for their mutual respect and willingness to play unselfishly for each other: “We can be delighted at having two such high-quality strikers."
Klose and Toni have scored nine between them, and have contributed directly to 12 of Bayern’s 16 league goals so far. Uli Hoeneß is convinced the pair could become one of the deadliest partnerships at the club in recent years. “We haven’t seen anything of Luca yet. Once he’s fully fit, he could be getting three or four goals a game.“