Milan (AFP) – Verona striker Luca Toni says he will cherish memories of his final Serie A game “forever” after a fairytale swansong saw him score a cheeky ‘Panenka’ spot-kick in 2-1 win over champions Juventus on Sunday.
“It will be a match I remember forever. It was my last, but it came at the right time,” Toni told Mediaset after being given a rousing ovation by a fired-up Bentegodi stadium crowd.
Toni, a former World Cup winner with Italy who once finished as the Bundesliga’s top scorer with Bayern Munich, announced last week that playing Juventus would be the final challenge of a 22-year career.
The 38-year-old was given the chance to score when the referee awarded an arguably soft penalty two minutes before the interval after Juve defender Alex Sandro’s collision with Eros Pisano.
Toni stepped up to beat second-choice Juve keeper Norberto Neto with a cheeky, Panenka-style spot-kick that stopped his Serie A career tally at 157 goals in 344 games.
It turned out to be the cherry on the cake of a win that saw Juve striker Paulo Dybala reduce arrears from the spot after Federico Viviani had given the hosts a 2-0 lead on 55 minutes.
But Toni, known for his peculiar habit of shaking his hand near his temple to celebrate his goals, admitted he had no clue where to strike the ball.
“I didn’t know whether to shoot it right or left, so I opted for the ‘scavino’ (chip),” he added.
“All goals are great, but there are too many. Tonight’s is maybe the best because it wrapped up my career in a very emotional way.”
Toni, who won the World Cup in 2006, has scored Serie A goals for eight different clubs throughout a career that also saw him star for Bayern and top the Bundesliga scoring charts in the 2007-2008 season.
Last season Toni, at 38 years old, became the oldest player to win Serie A’s top scorer (Capocannoniere) award — an accolade he shared with Inter Milan striker Mauro Icardi when both finished on 22 goals.
But at the tail end of a “terrible” season that has seen Verona relegated, he finally decided to hang up his boots.
Toni admitted in midweek he was going through a rollercoaster of emotions as his final game approached, saying: “It’s an intense experience.”
He was given a rousing ovation when replaced five minutes from time and had to fight back the tears as he admitted: “This farewell is one of the most beautiful moments for me, but it’s also one of the most sad because giving up football is not easy.”
After several months’ rest, Toni said he is now hoping to take up some kind of backroom role in football, because coaching would make him age too quickly.
He added: “I don’t want to be a coach because I’ve seen all the other players who have done that. In just one season, you age five years.”
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