Antonio di Natale

The list of titles that Antonio Di Natale has won with club & country? Non existent. However, the small Italian striker who has announced his retirement has achieved plenty with Udinese during his time with the club, helping them achieve a certain amount of success he can still contribute to.

Di Natale announced on January 6 that he’ll retire at the end of the season, his 18th since beginning his career as a professional footballer at Empoli. It took him 7 years before finding the right place after years of being out on loan and then spending the first half of the previous decade back with Empoli.

Udinese signed him in 2004, a match made in heaven. Udinese were a decent club before his arrival, but Di Natale was part of cementing its place in Italy’s second tier, which meant being a club that usually finds itself closer to playing in Europe than fighting for relegation. Not everyone can be Milan, Juventus and Inter. Udinese never tried to be, kept selling their best player except for Di Natale, who was already 27 when he arrived at the club, and found ways to restock without going overboard.

Di Natale isn’t having the best of seasons in 2013-2014. Maybe it’s the age (turning 36 recently), with Udinese struggling at 13th, closer to the relegation zone than to the Europa League qualifying spot. These years do happen, but it seemed like Di Natale was thriving in his mid 30’s, scoring more and more each year, leading the Serie A in goalscoring twice in a row (2010, 2011). Udinese kept making the Europa League, but this season failed to get past Slovan Liberec in the play-off round, marked as a huge failure.

Di Natale has been dealing with loads of criticism from every direction for his and his team’s form. He has acknowledged that as partial motivation for making his decision to leave the game.

Di Natale has scored 162 league goals in 313 league matches for Udinese, including 23 or more over the last four seasons. His career league record which includes Empoli and the lower leagues rises to 227 goals in 528 matches. He has been a part of three Italy squads to the Euro and World Cup (2008, 2010, 2012), scoring one goal in the South Africa experience (not making it out of the group stage) and one in Euro 2012.

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