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International Soccer
Double the pleasure for Toni, Bayern

Brian Westfall, Soccer Editor

Stoppage Time Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Italian international Luca Toni raised his open hand next to his ear, waved it back and forth - his trademark celebration - and was mobbed by teammates once again last weekend.

The scene, which almost looks like Toni is screwing his ear back on, followed a game-winning overtime goal in the German Pokal Cup on Saturday. Lately, it's a sight that's been a normal part of Bayern Munich's games.

In his last four games, Toni has been able to celebrate twice - in each match.

The celebration, which Toni started doing years ago when he began to emerge as one of the top players in Italy, has a few meanings but according to the star just means, "Can you hear me now?"

It's his way of saying he's arrived as a top player, and that message is coming through clearer than ever this season.

Toni, who helped Italy win the 2006 World Cup, deserves the attention.

After leaving Italy's Fiorentina to join Germany's Bayern Munich last summer, he has 35 goals in 41 appearances in all competition for the Bundesliga giants.

Luca Toni
Luca Toni has 35 goals in 41 appearances in all competition for Bayern Munich.
While his current scoring streak is amazing - it's not usual for any player to score two goals in four straight games - the importance of the goals makes the stretch even more amazing.

Toni's run started April 10 with two goals in the last six minutes of overtime to dig Bayern out of a 3-1 deficit against Getafe and propel his side into the semifinals of the UEFA Cup on away goals.

In the next six days, Toni scored four times in a pair of Bundesliga matches, helping Bayern Munich open a 10-point lead and all but lock up the title with less than a month remaining in the season.

He completed the 10-day stretch with both of Bayern's goals in the Pokal Cup - including the overtime winner - to lead Munich to the first of three possible trophies this season.

"What he's doing at the moment," Bayern Munich chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge told the club's website, "is unbelievable."

Considering Rummenigge's resume, which includes leading the Bundesliga with 29 goals in 1980-81 for Bayern Munich and scoring 45 times in 95 matches for West Germany, his opinion is certainly noteworthy.

Toni leads the Bundesliga with 20 goals, the UEFA Cup with 10 and had five in the Pokal tournament.

The 6-foot-4 striker, who has played 33 matches for Italy, is averaging 0.853 goals per game this season for Bayern Munich.

To put that into perspective, German legend Gerd Muller averaged 0.854 goals a game during his illustrious career. While Muller may not be as well known as Pele, the German is considered one of the top goal scorers of all time. He scored 68 goals in 62 appearances for his country and 365 goals in 427 Bundesliga games.

Toni's incredible season has been a bit overshadowed by the success of younger stars Cristiano Ronaldo (38 goals) and Liverpool's Fernando Torres (30 goals) in Europe, but the 30-year-old is not unappreciated by his team.

"In terms of goal scoring ability, he's one of the best we've ever had," Bayern Munich and ex-German goalkeeper Oliver Kahn told the club's website. "He's a poacher, a goal-getter, straight out of the manual."

Rummenigge knew when Bayern Munich spent $17.5 million to sign Toni that goals would be the reward. After all, he led Italy's Serie A with 31 in 1995-96.

But nobody at Bayern ever expected he would approach that total again, even in all competitions.

"In his case, we've done a superb piece of transfer business," General Manager Uli Hoeness told the club's website.

Toni's enjoying all the goals - his celebration makes that obvious. But he is not concerned with any individual accolades.

Despite winning the World Cup with Italy, Toni's first trophy with a club team was the Pokal Cup. With the league title within reach and the UEFA Cup winding down, he knows more goals will deliver more trophies.

"I'm hoping for lots more goals between now and the end of May," Toni told the club's website. "We're still missing two more trophies."

Comments? Criticism? Applause?
Contact Tim Keeble at tkeeble@sportsnetwork.com
Contact Brian Westfall at bwestfall@sportsnetwork.com

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