Give Antonio Di Natale the ball and he will score within seconds.
Twenty-three seconds, to be precise.
In Sunday’s match against Genoa, Di Natale did just that. In what is the fastest occurring goal of the season thus far, Di Natale put Udinese up over Genoa in the 23rd second of the match. Unfortunately, Udinese went on to lose 4–2 at the Stadio Friuli — their first loss at home all season — but for a few seconds of that match, the entire Italian football world was in awe of the Zebrette.
And it truly was only a few seconds.
To put the length of time into perspective, consider this: Di Natale managed to score a goal in less than half the time it should take a person to wash their hands (as recommend by the World Health Organization).
Or, if you’re now questioning your hand hygiene: he managed to score a goal in a third of the time it takes a person to heat up a 7-Eleven burrito (as recommended by 7-Eleven*).
Basically: he scored a goal really fast.
And it wasn’t just the speed of the goal that impressed, it was who he scored it against. Genoa’s Mattia Perin is currently being groomed to become Gianluigi Buffon’s successor, he is not a man that one can easily get an advantage on.
So, not only does Di Natale score a goal in 23 seconds, against one of the top goalkeepers in Italy, but it is also his sixth goal of the season — two behind leading goal scorer Jose Callejon of Napoli — and his 199th goal in 398 appearances.
In other words: the man is a machine.
It is indeed no wonder he has earned the titles of Italian Footballer of the Year (2010), Serie A Top Scorer (2010, 2011), recipient of the Pallone d’Argento (2011), named to the Serie A Team of the Year for the 2010/11, 2011/12, and 2012/13 seasons, and was nominated for a FIFA Puskas Award for this physics-defying volley.
And he’s not just good, he’s distinct at what he does. At 170cm (the same height as Tom Cruise) and 70kg, his low centre of gravity, lightning fast speed, and amazing accuracy to hit his mark, makes Di Natale practically unstoppable when he is onside; just check out any of his goal compilations on YouTube.
And that’s just on the pitch. Off the pitch, he’s a philanthropist, model, fashion designer, and entrepreneurial barista (no, seriously).
Oh, and to top it all off, he also recently celebrated his 37th birthday in October.
To put that in perspective: Antonio Di Natale is as old as the original Star Wars, the Sex Pistol’s debut record Never Mind the Bollocks, and James Van Der Beek.
It’s almost irrefutable: Di Natale is a demi-god who walks among us mere mortals. He’s record-breaking, award-winning, and highlight-reel inspiring.
But here’s the twist: he will never go down in Italian football history books as more than a footnote; for all of Di Natale’s success with Udinese, he has never managed to re-create them with the Italian National Team.
As a Serie A player, he is a hero and a conqueror. But as an Italy player, he is mediocre at best. With only 42 caps and 11 goals, Di Natale never found the same stride with the Azzurri as he has with Udinese.
He was a part of the 2012 European Championship team that came second to Spain, even scoring against La Roja in the group stages, but other than that, his mark on the Italy team has not been noteworthy.
Missed penalties, lack of flair compared to other strikers, and a late start coming to the national team, all made Di Natale a third-round-at-best pick under various coaches.
As such, all his accomplishments and achievements with Udinese seem to come second to the lack-there-of with Italy. After all, Di Natale is currently seven goals away from passing Roberto Baggio’s goal record, with a 0.05 percentage higher goal-scoring average than the retired Calcio legend. But will the two be remembered the same way?
Sure, Baggio has more memorable hair and has certainly done more with the national team; that’s implacable. But why does a national greatness overshadow club greatness? Why are heroes measured on the scale of their country and their club achievements?
When it comes down to it, Di Natale is one of the greatest Serie A players, but unfortunately that does mean much when being measured as one of the greatest Italian players. And no matter what he does with Udinese, it is really only his achievements with the Azzurri that will be measured, remembered, and archived.
Thus making one of the greatest, most respected, multiple award-winning Serie A players, only a mere footnote in Italian football history.
*All cooking times are correct as per 7-Eleven (Toronto, ON, Canada)
Follow Sonja Missio on Twitter at: @sonjamissio