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Out with the old and in with the new: A summer of change in Calcio

Friday 6th May 2016
The face of Serie A is changing. Iconic players for both club and country are either hanging up their boots for their club or looking to ply their trade.
The end of a season and the beginning of the summer transfer window usually signals the changing of the tide for many clubs. Yet this summer we may well see the end of an era with no less than two, potentially three, ex Capocannoniere (top scorer) winners departing in the summer.

Journeyman striker and La Viola legend Luca Toni has called time on his long career and will take to the pitch for the final time this Sunday when Hellas Verona host reigning champions Juventus for their final home game of the season

Toni was part of the 2006 World Cup winning side and holds the record for being the oldest winner of the Capocannoniere scoring an impressive 22 league goals last year. He shared the title with Mauro Icardi of Inter Milan; a player who is 16 years his junior.

However, it appears age has finally caught up with him as he labeled this season as his worst of his professional career after only managing to hit the back of the net three times. It's a stark contrast to last season's form and the same can be said for his club side, Verona, who have been relegated back to Serie B.

Having notched up 156 Serie A goals in 343 games – for eight different clubs – Toni departs leaving a space and opportunity in the first team for a younger model to grab with both hands. But they are big shoes indeed to fill.

A similar story is unfolding in the northeast of the country with Udinese's iconic captain Antonio Di Natale calling time at the club.

Unlike Toni, Di Natale has spent the best part of his career serving one club and is treated very much like one of their own by the Curva Nord fans. It's been a season of frustration for the 2010 and 2011 Capocannoniere winner as injuries have limited him to making just 22 appearances and scoring a solitary goal.

Yet Di Natale is still yet to confirm whether or not he will be retiring as he reiterated just last week, following the defeat to Juventus that he still felt good. It would certainly be a strange sight to see him lining up for someone other than the Udine club in Serie A.

His likely destination is still unclear but murmurs that his former employer and first professional club Empoli are willing to offer him a deal. Di Natale has scored 208 Serie A goals -- 190 for Udinese and 18 for Empoli.

Nevertheless, the most interesting story is continuing to develop down south in the capital where Roma legend Francesco Totti may well be on the verge of ending his 27-year association with his boyhood club.

It has been a yearlong soap opera at Giallorossi with fan protests demanding their club captain to extend his stay. It is apparent that age and tiredness has had an affect on the legendary forward having been in-and-out of the side on an all too frequent basis.

First with Rudi Garcia at the beginning of the season and then more recently with Luciano Spalletti, Totti has been used as a substitute coming off the bench to make little more than a cameo appearance.

Totti has yet to clarify whether he will remain at the club or indeed move elsewhere to seek a regular starting place but it's evident that he is not taking this decision lightly.

Reports of a feud with Spalletti have not helped matters looking beyond the remainder of the season but his recent return to form with five goals in his last four games has only reaffirmed the Roma faithful's belief that he still has something to offer.

In Italian football players can extend their careers for longer than what they usually could do in any of the other major European leagues. Yet sometimes the time is right to step aside and let the younger generation have their opportunity in the spotlight and see what they can achieve. Of course, this is done with a heavy heart but in the case of the three experienced front men who have been discussed a certain phrase comes to mind.

Form is temporary, class is permanent.
Matthew Bostock
21 year old free-lance football journalist and editor of Radcliffe Borough Football Club's monthly magazine. Avid follower of Italian football and Manchester United fan.

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