Francesco Totti has been scoring goals for Roma for almost 20 years. Alessandro Del Piero has been doing the same for Juventus. The likes of Christian Vieri and Roberto Baggio were lethal goalscorers for all of Italy’s big clubs between them. These are the role models Giampaolo Pazzini must look up to as he becomes an Inter player.
Pazzini, however, does not belong to the same generation as those Italian icons. Instead, he is part of an age where the national team’s strikers – the best Italy have to offer – are not trusted to perform at clubs like Inter, Milan or Juventus because they are not deemed good enough. And a look at the strikers at Cesare Prandelli’s disposal certainly indicates scoring goals for the biggest clubs in the country is a problem Pazzini will be desperate to avoid.
Antonio Cassano, thought by many to be today’s best Azzurri forward, has only just been rewarded with a move to one of ‘the big three’. Admittedly, Roma made him the world’s most expensive teenager, but there can be little argument he hasn’t made the most of his talent.
Cassano was sent off in a Coppa Italia final for Roma, spent periods out of the team and fell out with several authoritarian figures before leaving the club acrimoniously to join Real Madrid – a team of the same standings as Inter, Milan or Juve. But, Cassano was a failure at Real and has had to rebuild his career with Sampdoria before finally Milan gave him another chance at the big-time a few weeks ago.
Alberto Gilardino has the reputation of a solid goalscorer in Serie A, but it seems his best form is with teams of smaller aspirations. He burst onto the scene with Parma, averaging over a goal every two games. This form prompted Milan to identify him as Pippo Inzaghi’s replacement, yet the 37-year-old is still a Rossoneri striker and Gilardino is not.
Although his Serie A record isn’t bad (36 in 94 games), Gilardino found his limitations in the Champions League. He played all of Milan’s 12 European games in his first season without scoring, and the next campaign he registered just a couple as his club lifted the trophy. For the final, Gilardino was benched in favour of Inzaghi.
Another goal-shy Azzurri striker is Vincenzo Iaquinta. But it wasn’t always this way, as Udinese will testify. With them, Iaquinta formed a formidable partnership with Antonio Di Natale where both men regularly found the back of the net. Juventus saw enough potential in the powerful forward to sign Iaquinta, but upon arriving near the summit of Serie A his goals dried up. Today, Iaquinta remains a vilified figure in Juve’s underachieving team.
The same club wanted to sign Di Natale more recently, but were surprisingly snubbed. This means Di Natale, last season’s Capocannoniere, will probably finish his career without any of the big teams on his CV. He scores plenty at Udinese, but we’ll never know if he could do the same for a big club.
There are two other Italy strikers Juventus possess have been laughing stocks at stages in their careers. Amauri, firstly, looked like the real deal when he bulldozed through defences for Chievo then Palermo, but looks totally out of his depth at Juve and has managed just 17 goals in 71 games. Luca Toni, secondly, has only just joined the club but at 33, it may already be too late. Toni’s goals promoted Palermo and he then joined Fiorentina, where he became the first player in 50 years to score 30 goals in a single season. He then scored 30 goals in 68 games for Bayern Munich, but age has seemingly caught up with him. Poor spells at Roma and Genoa were before his current stint at Juve which, unless he rekindles his old form, may be his last crack at a big Italian club.
Who else is out there? Mario Balotelli’s goal record at Inter was good but he was never first-choice. Giuseppe Rossi’s only Serie A experience has been a short loan spell with Parma. And Fabio Quagliarella has always scored wonder goals, but has never been prolific (nine in 16 this season threatened to change this before his injury).
Inter’s new signing Pazzini has been warned. His 36 goals in 75 games for Sampdoria is good, but based on previous evidence doesn’t mean he will replicate that form now he is playing for genuine Scudetto contenders. At 26 years of age, Pazzini is well placed to make himself the Azzurri’s top striker with his form at Inter, but he must be aware others before him have tried and failed to succeed with one of the top clubs.