Its a well known fact that when football players get older, their performances on the field start to go down. This is usually due to their weaker physical condition, and effects of injuries they had during their careers. I believe that this is slowly changing, and there are some notable players who are proving that age doesn’t matter any more.
I believe that prime example of this is currently the most prolific striker in Italy. That striker is Luca Toni. The towering forward is 38 years old, and scored 22 goals in Serie A this season. He has became the oldest player to have achieve that in Serie A. Even more surprising was the fact that he scored 22 goals while playing for Verona, which is not a very big club in Italy.
Luca Toni started his professional football career in Modena back in 1994. He stayed at Modena for 2 seasons, before moving to a host of clubs in Serie B, and C. Its safe to say that he didn’t look like the next (big) thing in the world of football.
Toni probably made the transfer of his life, when he joined Palermo in 2003. The club was in Serie B, but had an ambitious plans, and they saw Luca Toni (who was 26 years old at the time) as the striker who could bring them to Serie A.
There was a big doubt about Luca Toni’s scoring ability that could bring Palermo to Serie A, because he wasn’t that prolific in his previous clubs. Well, Toni scored 30 goals that season, and was the key for Palermo’s rise to Serie A. His next season proved equally good, because he scored 20 goals in Serie A, and helped Palermo to first ever UEFA Cup qualification. This proved the last achievement Toni made at Palermo, because he transferred to Fiorentina in the summer.
Although many people were still not certain of Luca Toni’s qualities, he managed to score 31 goals in his first season at Fiorentina, which made him the first player in 50 years to score more than 30 goals in Serie A. With this he helped Fiorentina to reach 4th place, the highest since Gabriel Batistuta times.
Next season was kind of disappointing for Toni, because he had a lot of injuries, and the club received points deduction due to playing a part of Calciopoli scandal. This was the main reason why Luca Toni decided to change clubs again, but he didn’t stay in Italy, he left for Germany.
Bayern Munich were in very bad state at the time. The club even failed to qualify for Champions League. People in charge of Bayern Munich decided it was time for change, and they brought Miroslav Klose, Franck Ribery, and Luca Toni. Especially Toni, and Ribery were the key for bringing Bayern back to winning ways. Luca Toni scored amazing 39 goals in that season, which brought 3 titles (one in the league, and two in the cups).
His next season at Bayern started well enough, but injury disrupted the second part of the season. Luca Toni never really regained his status at the club after that injury, and he left the club a year later. After Bayern, Luca Toni played for a host of clubs with no goalscoring success, until he arrived at Verona.
In his first season at Verona Luca Toni managed to score 20 goals, which is an incredible feat for a 37 year old player, but he even managed to score 22 goals this season, and became the oldest top goalscorer in Serie A history.
Its hard to say if his moving around clubs has helped his longevity in football, but the fact is that Luca Toni is the prime example that age doesn’t matter in football, but motivation does. I think that there is a new trend in football. Players are retiring older than before. They can play in more difficult leagues longer and more effectively. For now, Luca Toni is the prime example of this, but I believe that in time, Cristiano Ronaldo will show just how unimportant age is in football.