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‘He lives for goals’

Third brace in six days for free-scoring Luca

Luca Toni appeared slightly nervous on Thursday, as any number of lenses and all eyes homed in on the striker and a brand new pair of boots provided by his equipment supplier. Two hours after a few tentative jogs and sprints to test the new footwear, the trademark grin had returned to the Italian’s craggy features as he faced the media at Bayern’s Säbener Strasse training ground. Understandably enough, the boots were a topic for discussion. Should the striker really be contemplating a change just now?

Toni’s current boots have brought him no fewer than six goals in as many days, two apiece in Bayern’s meetings with Getafe, Dortmund and Frankfurt. “I am superstitious actually, so I’ll test the new boots again tomorrow before deciding whether to risk them on Saturday,” the 30-year-old revealed.

Boots in focus

The 2006 World Cup winner goes in search of his first trophy at club level when Bayern face Dortmund in the DFB German Cup final at the Berlin Olympic stadium. Practically all footballers detest changes to an established routine before big matches, and Toni appears to be no exception.

However, even if the Italian chose to go without footwear, few would bet against him netting at least once on present form. “In terms of goalscoring quality, he’s one of the best we’ve ever had at Bayern,” Oliver Kahn declared on Thursday.

Memories of Müller

The man who switched to Munich from Florence last summer now has 33 goals in 40 competitive appearances, the kind of strike rate inevitably drawing comparisons with Munich legend Gerd Müller. He leads the scoring charts in the Bundesliga (20) and the UEFA Cup (10). In Frankfurt on Wednesday, he scored the goals to make the score 2-1 and then 3-1 in his side’s favour.

“He’s a poacher, the kind of forward you don’t see very often. He’s the definition of a penalty box player, always in the right place and hardly ever wasteful. He’s an outstanding striker,” continued Kahn, impressed by more than just the big man’s killer instinct. “As a World Cup winner, he has total belief in himself, and that’s infectious. You hear his voice when things aren’t going so well. He kept urging us on in Getafe, and he duly got the goals.“

Tireless Toni

The club captain also praised Toni’s professionalism. “His movement is always just right, always into the important areas. He comes across as extremely fit and doesn’t need resting.” Toni has hardly been affected by coach Ottmar Hitzfeld’s extensive squad rotation in recent weeks.

“He want goals. That’s why he’s at Bayern, and that’s what he lives for. Even when he’s tired, he’ll manage a sprint if he senses a goal. His mental strength is absolutely unbelievable,” Hitzfeld said, almost in wonder, after the two-goal gala in Frankfurt. The Bayern coach had wanted to withdraw the Italian at the interval as a precaution before the Cup final, but Toni insisted on playing on. “Someone so fired up is always going to score,” mused general manager Uli Hoeneß.

Critical phase

Toni freely admits he never expected to settle at Munich quite as quickly as he has done. “Obviously I’m delighted, but we’re only just coming to the vital games where the goals count double,” he declared before returning to the city where he won the World Cup with Italy two years ago. “Berlin was a lucky place for me,” he reflected, although he will certainly be careful with his choice of boots.