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Fired-up Luca vows 110 percent effort

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Fired-up Luca vows 110 percent effort

Postby FCBayernNews » Thu Apr 02, 2009 6:30 pm

Luca Toni didn't hesitate when asked who were the best strikers in the Bundesliga, after those at Bayern of course. "Ibisevic," he said, "Gomez and Helmes." The FCB man failed to mention Wolfsburg hitman Grafite, pronounced 'Gra-feech' and meaning 'Granite' in Portuguese, who is joint top of the league scoring chart alongside long-term injury victim Ibisevic.

Naturally, Toni in fact knows all about the on-fire Brazilian. "He's a good player and scores a lot." Two days before the head-to-head with Grafite, that was all Toni was prepared to say.

Saturday's clash in Wolfsburg pairs not only the sides dead level in second place on points and goals, but also last season's leading scorer Toni and Grafite, a strong candidate to succeed him. Both have made 16 appearances to date, Grafite netting 18 times (including six penalties), and Toni nine (with no penalties). Both are pivotal figures for their teams as the title race enters the home straight.

The German Brazilian

"His attitude is outstanding, he works for the team and scores regularly. He's unbelievably important to us," VfL coach Felix Magath says of Grafite. The 30-year-old even describes himself as "an unusual Brazilian, who plays a bit like a German" and who is "enjoying the best season of my career."

Toni's more patchy record is largely due to a string of injuries this term. Bruised ribs forced him to the sidelines before Christmas, and an Achilles problem after it. Five and a half weeks after his last game, the away trip to Sporting Lisbon, he is now preparing to re-enter the fray in Wolfsburg.

Not fully fit, but fully fired up

"I can't claim I'm totally fit," the Italian acknowledged after a full month off training. Toni only resumed the squad programme last Monday, but he is certain he can find the last few percentage points through willpower and sheer determination. "I'm feeling good and I'm desperate to play again. I just want to feel the adrenalin flowing. That's what I've been missing."

The team has also sorely missed its target man and goal-getter. "He's a real poacher and always good for a goal," declared Michael Rensing, delighted that Il Bomber is ready to return. Coach Jürgen Klinsmann regards Toni as "a player who makes the difference, with his physical presence, mental strength, and the permanent threat he poses."

Hungry for goals

Recognising this, Magath jokingly complained that Toni was making a premature comeback. "I'd prefer it if he gave his Achilles another week," the Wolfsburg boss quipped. Toni would be short of rhythm after the long lay-off, "but he's a deadly striker, and you can't afford to lose sight of him for a second."

Toni promised "110 percent" for the showdown in Wolfsburg. He spent Thursday on an intensive solo workout - including shooting practice, as Luca has not entirely given up hope of defending his leading scorer crown. "I'm basically still hoping I can retain the accolade." And what about Grafite? "If it's not me, I don't care who wins it."
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