When sprouting names of prestigious and definitive Italian strikers, most fans would likely name off the likes of Rossi, Baggio, Vieri and Piola to name a few, yet one great from the scene rarely ever earns a true mention among the all-time greatest Italian marksmen.
The underrated (and understated) name Antonio Di Natale is a name that fans of the Italian game still look back on with the greatest of fondness, after his long tenure at Serie A side Udinese, up until his retirement in 2016. Di Natale was a true wizard with the ball at his feet and became an immediate danger to opposing defenders the moment he would gain possession of the ball.
Especially when they afforded him the opportunity to cut in and angle his top-half towards the goal. He was also a perennial front-man for early 2010 editions of FIFA, but that’s a story for a different day …
With a wicked right foot, Di Natale would become one of the greatest goal scorers that Italian football had ever seen as he tallied over 200 Serie A goals in just shy of 450 appearances for Udinese.
Antonio Di Natale’s most successful season in Serie A came in the 2009/10 season where he led the league in scoring, netting 29 times, becoming Udinese’s highest scorer within a single season in the process. He was later rewarded for his efforts by being named as the Serie A’s Player of the Year.
Di Natale would proceed with another successful campaign where he once again led the league in scoring with another 28 goals which saw him chart up the third best strike rate in Europe behind Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. Not exactly bad players to be in the company of, as I’m sure you’ll agree!
Despite all this, Di Natale is still a name that has almost become lost amongst fans of the footballing world. Most likely one of the main reasons is due to the Italian not bolstering a major list of silverware at the top tier of domestic football in Italy or in European competitions.
The Italian spent almost his entire career at Udinese and would almost occasionally have to claw the Serie A side to a place in the Champions League Qualifiers with only Fabio Quagliarella being his main offensive partner in attack.
Both men completely defied the limitations of age in football as Antonio Di Natale remained a constant figure in the Italian goal scoring charts late into his 30s, while Quagliarella has arguably been playing his best football of his career at Sampdoria at the age of 38.
While Di Natale certainly didn’t enjoy as much success domestically as his Italian striker counterparts, he remains as one of the finest ever names to grace Serie A who never won a league title and as the greatest player in the long history of Udinese.
Throughout Di Natale’s protracted stint at the side they constantly remained in the Italian topflight, becoming regulars in Europe and even potential title contenders who looked to end the dominance of AC, Inter and Juventus as the immovable forces of the Italian division.
The team would produce other notable names including Alexis Sanchez, Gokhan Inler and Juan Cuadrado but no one would be able to dent the all-time influence and magnificent stance that Di Natale brought to Udinese and the wider Italian football scene.
A name that should most definitely be more so remembered by all.