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Up for the challenge

Luca Toni returns ‘more motivated than ever’

A combination of mama’s tortellini and a Vespa tour of his beloved Emilia Romagna has nicely fired Luca Toni up for the battle to gain a regular berth in the Bayern line-up. A few days ahead of his return to Munich and a delayed start to the pre-season programme, the Italian World Cup winner is ready to take up the cudgels again at Germany’s leading club.

“I rate my team-mates very highly, but I’ll do everything I can to be a first-choice pick in the new season,” the 31-year-old declared, laying down the gauntlet to new signing Mario Gomez and company in advance of the club’s summer training camp, which opens in Donaueschingen on Thursday.

Going for goal

The man who finished as the Bundesliga’s top scorer in 2007-8 is absolutely not prepared to go down without a fight, nor is he contemplating a switch away from Munich. “I’m not even wasting a thought on life as a substitute,” the Italian said from his vacation base in Rimini. Toni is refusing to become involved in media speculation as to his future in the Munich line-up.

“I just want to score as many goals as possible and make my contribution to a significant trophy win for Bayern,” Toni said. Reports suggesting new boss Louis van Gaal has no place for the tall hitman in his favoured formation have not irritated Luca in the slightest: “I know van Gaal is a very good coach and I can hardly wait for the chance to prove myself to him,” the player emphasised.

More motivated than ever

After a restorative lasagne at an Agriturismo near Rimini, the man heavily criticised by the vociferous Italian media after the Confederations Cup appeared relaxed and confident. “We didn’t win a trophy last season, and that makes me more motivated than ever,” the Modena-born goal-getter said. The Bundesliga title and DFB Cup were the priorities, alongside a regular berth: “I’ll do what it takes so the coach can’t ignore me”.

Toni also wants FCB to do well in the Champions League, although he feels big-spending Real Madrid have all but caught up with favourites Barcelona. In any case, Toni is no fan of Madrid’s spending policy: “They’re astronomical sums, especially during an economic crisis. 100 million Euro is too much for a player.”

2010 in his sights

Starting with Euro 2008 and ending at the Confed Cup in South Africa, last term was an unsatisfactory one for Luca. He is now hoping to restore his reputation with the Azzurri by delivering the goods for his club. “It’ll be a different Italy at the World Cup next year,” the striker promised, “hopefully one featuring Luca Toni.”