Only Messi & Ronaldo can rival finishing of Di Natale

The Udinese front man has bagged 100 goals in four years to put to shame stars such as Falcao, Cavani, Ibrahimovic and Van Persie

Good things come in small packages, while many get better with age. Antonio Di Natale has been likened to a fine wine, but the Udinese centre-forward hardly needs superlatives. Such is his goalscoring record in recent times, he can simply be described as one of the best strikers in football.

Despite earning his wage at a provincial club whose attacking phases come at less frequent intervals than some of the sport’s bigger-name outfits, Di Natale has racked up a phenomenal 100 goals in the last four league seasons to leave some of football’s most talked-about front men in his shadow. After netting 29 goals in 2009-10, he earned a second successive Capocannoniere crown with 28 more the following year. Last season’s 23 and this term’s 20 have ensured that his consistency in front of goal has helped Udinese to punch above their weight a while longer.

The numbers are extraordinary. Only Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo – with 161 and 145 goals respectively – can boast better goal tallies over the same period. The Argentine has bagged totals of 34, 31, 50 and 46 in the last four seasons with Barcelona, while Real Madrid’s Ronaldo has picked up 26, 40, 46 and 33 in the corresponding campaigns. The pair’s records are frankly untouchable, especially given the relative power of their two clubs compared to the rest of La Liga, and Di Natale’s relative handicap given his playing surroundings make his chalking up four consecutive 20-goal campaigns even more noteworthy. Alongside Messi and Ronaldo, he is the only player in a top European league with such a record.

In Serie A, that feat had not been achieved in 51 years since Jose Altafini last recorded the same number of 20-goal seasons. Before him, Istvan Nyers, Gunnar Nordahl (with seven successive seasons) and Giuseppe Meazza (five seasons) had also reached the same mark. But not only is Di Natale only the fifth player to score so consistently in Italy, he is also outscoring the current game’s big names at an alarming rate.

Radamel Falcao, who cost Atletico Madrid €47 million is not incredibly far behind, but he does trail Di Natale. Over his spells with Porto and Atleti he has chalked up 91 goals in the league. Even Edinson Cavani, who has been on fire in his three seasons with Napoli, sees his average drop thanks to his final season with Palermo when he scored 13 times. Zlatan Ibrahimovic – between Barcelona, Milan and Paris Saint-Germain – has scored 15 fewer goals than Di Natale, while Robin van Persie has netted 82, thanks in part to an injury-hit 2009-10 season at Arsenal during which he struck just nine times

The Dutchman’s ratio for that season is still impressive given he only played 16 times, but even then it doesn’t match that of Udinese’s finest. Further down the list are star names such as Wayne Rooney (76), Mario Gomez (75) and Robert Lewandowski (71). Bigger gaps still can be found between the Italy striker’s record and those of Sergio Aguero (66), Carlos Tevez (58) and Francesco Totti (49).

It would be harsh, however, to try to compare full European records with that of Raul, with the one-time Real Madrid captain having shared his recent goalscoring feats between Schalke and Al Sadd. The Spaniard has scored 42 in four years, including just nine in Qatar. The 2009-10 season was when things started to tail off for the great number seven, but the opposite can be said of Di Natale. At 35, he shows no sign of slowing down. We can only hope he keeps it up for some time yet.

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