Luca Toni – It’s time I won the Champions League
Luca Toni was Serie A’s leading goalscorer in 2005-2006 with Fiorentina and went on to win the 2006 FIFA World Cup™ with Italy. In July 2007 the 30-year-old striker returned to Germany, hungry for success with his new club, Bayern Munich.
Ribery, you have quickly established yourself as a crowd favourite in Munich. Do you like being a star?
Luca Toni: I like playing football and I like scoring goals. The rest is just part of it. As for being a star, we’ll have to wait and see. I came to Bayern to score goals and to be loved for it, as I was in Palermo and Florence. And here in Germany, people show you lots of respect when you’re going about your business. They leave me in peace even though they recognise me, unlike in Italy. As a player I feel less pressure in Germany than in Italy. Munich is a beautiful city. I feel very much at home.
With all the rain in Germany, don’t you miss the Italian summer and the sun?
Toni: A little, yes. In August the weather’s very nice in Italy. I missed the sun and the sea.
Can the weissbier so typical of Bavaria ever replace a vino rosso or vino biancho?
Toni: I drink both. It depends what vou’re eating with it. I drank beer in Italy, too, but the beer in Munich tastes better.
How do you like the football in Germany?
Toni: I won’t be able to give a serious assessment of the Bundesliga until the “inter break. What I can say is this: at Bayern we have a very strong team that
would also have a great chance of doing well in Italy.
What does that mean specifically?
Toni: We’d be at the top end of the table.
You also had offers from leading Italian sides AC Milan, Inter Milan and Juventus. Why did you switch to the Bundesliga?
Toni: I did indeed have offers from other clubs. I gave it a lot of thought – and Bayern’s offer was the best.
Ruggiero Rizzitelli is the only other Italian to play in the Bundesliga. In 45 Bundesliga appearances between 1996 and 1998 he scored eleven goals for Bayern. Did you speak to him about Munich and the Bundesliga?
Toni: Yes, I did. He was very excited right away and gave me lots of encouragement. He said Bayern were a great club and that I would really like it there. On top of that, I wanted to experience playing abroad. I’d already experienced a lot in Italy, including finishing as the leading goalscorer.
In 2006, you were the leading goalscorer not only in Italy but also in Europe. Is this also your target in Germany?
Toni: Yes, I’d love that. It would be great if I could do that here as well. I wanted to test myself in other leagues, which is why I came to Munich. And Bayern will be really going for it in the next few years, they’ll be one of the best teams in Europe and therefore the world. I want to be a part of that.
What makes you so confident?
Toni: Bayem have invested a lot of money and the previous team already had a good foundation. So why shouldn’t we set ourselves bieaer targets? And who’s to say we won’t achieve those targets?
When you were unveiled on 7 June, you admitted that you would have loved to play in the Champions League. Ultimately you weren’t put off by the UEFA Cup, though. Why not?
Toni: Obviously I would have preferred to play in the Champions League; it’s a shame it didn’t work out for Bayern this season. But it’s only for one year.
Are Bayern clear favourites to win the UEFA Cup?
Toni: Yes, we’re the clear favourites – even though there are some other good teams in it. We’ve no reason to fear anyone, though.
Who is capable of stopping this Munich team that has been enriched by so many top players?
Toni: When you get to the semi-final stage there are only good sides left, and this competition is no exception.
Your previous clubs include Empoli, Palermo and Fiorentina, and all three are in the UEFA ” Cup. Which of your former Italian teams would you like to face in the UEFA Cup final?
Toni: Fiorentina. I still have lots of friends there, and even though we’d be opponents in such a final, overall it would still be very nice for both sides.
Of the three Italian teams, who are the strongest?
Toni: Palermo and Fiorentina are both good. Palermo have bought a lot of new players.
Can Bayern use the 2007-08 UEFA Cup as a springboard for the next few years in the Champions League?
Toni: First of all we’re going to do everything in our power to win the UEFA Cup. And then we’ll see how things go in the Champions League after that.
Bayern have had a great start to the new Bundesliga season. By how many points are your new club going to the win the league?
Toni: That doesn’t interest me one bit. The main thing is to win the title.
Can anyone stop Bayern at national level?
Toni: Nothing is certain in football. But you have to be optimistic. We have a good, strong team. I want to win things and score goals along the way.
To do that, what kind of supply do you need from your new team-mates?
Toni: I’m not bothered. So long as the ball finds its way to me, I’ll do the rest.
What kind of a player are you?
Toni: On the pitch I’m a fighter who uses all the means at his disposal to take his chances and who wants to be successful.
Some people in Germany expressed concern about whether your partnership with Miroslav Klose would gel. Has it worked out so far?
Toni: We’re the perfect foils for each other.
What’s the “division of labour” between you and your new strike partner?
Toni: If he goes wide or drops back, I stay forward, and vice-versa. Miro is a tremendous player, not many strikers are as unselfish as he is.
You are quoted as saying that you’d have to go a long way to find a better strike pairing in Europe. So how good are Henry, Messi, Ronaldinho and Eto’o at Barcelona?
Toni: There are different types of striker: Miro and I aren’t here to provide a spectacle, we’re here to score goals. We’re out-and-out strikers, goalscorers. We get down to business. At Barca, show and spectacle are apart of things. Ronaldiiiho and Messi want personal prestige. Henry is the only one like us; he gets down to business the same as we do.
Off the pitch you don’t come across as being so tough and resolute, you’re always friendly. At what point do lose your temper, what annoys you?
Toni: It takes a lot, but when it happens, it’s bad. In football I don’t like it when someone can’t let things lie. The game must end after 90 minutes and we must go back to being perfectly ordinary people.
How do you react when you miss a great chance?
Toni: Even if I’ve missed ten chances I still hope I’ll get another. That’s why I have to remain focused for 90 minutes and can’t afford any distractions. And when I do score, the fans forget the ten I missed before. I don’t give up that easily.
How does it feel when you score a goal? Is it total ecstasy? Or have you got used to it?
Toni: It’s an incredibly strong feeling every time. I’ve no words to describe it.
What kind of a person are you?
Toni: I’m an ordinary 30-year-old man with the best job in the world, which enables me to live very well. Otherwise I enjoy going out with my friends and being in company. I try to lead a happy life.
You have, if you’ll forgive me for saying so, reached a certain age as a player without ever having played in the UEFA Champions League. What are the reasons for that?
Toni: I wasn’t always as good as I am now. And I didn’t start playing in Serie A until I was 23. At Fiorentina we’d actually qualified, but then the scandal broke. Now I want to play in the Champions League as soon as possible.
Your contract in Munich is for four years: will Bayern repeat their Champions League success of 2001 with you in their team?
Toni: I hope so. I joined Bayern because they are in the process of building a side capable of winning everything in Europe. And it won’t be too long before my career comes to an end. So it’s time I won the Champions League.
How long do you intend to go on playing?
Toni: I don’t have a timetable, there’s no set day. I’ll play for as long as my body allows me. You have to listen to your body very carefully. And you have to be honest with yourself when you’re no longer good enough.
In Francesco Totti and Alessandro Nesta, two members of the side that won the World Cup in 2006 have retired from international football. What does that mean for Italy?
Toni: We’ve lost two good and important players, two champions. It saddens me but you have to respect their decisions.
Do you have any plans to retire, say, if you win EURO 2008?
Toni: I haven’t given it any thought at all. I’m very proud to be able to play for my country.
Who are the favourites for the European Championship?
Toni: Germany, France. And hopefully Italy.
You’re receiving language lessons at Bayern. How’s your German coming along?
Toni: German isn’t an easy language to learn, I’m afraid. I’m definitely going to try and learn it. But it might take a while.