Thierry Henry (aged 24), Arsenal, 24 Goals, English Premier League Champions
Raul (aged 24), Real Madrid, 24 Goals, La Liga Champions
Marcio Amoruso (aged 27), Borussia Dortmund, 18 Goals, Bundesliga Champions
Above are the top goal-scorers from three of Europe’s top four leagues back in the season of 2001/02. The aforementioned strikers amassed these tallies while reaching the peak of their careers and furthermore, playing for the best teams in their respective leagues. There is no doubting their impressive goal-scoring, but it was all a bit predictable. That is until one takes a look at the goal-scoring charts in Italy during the same season. Italy’s topflight was arguably the best league in Europe during the early 2000s' and despite the trite thrown at Serie A for being ‘boring’, Italy certainly doesn’t do predictable.
Dario Hubner (aged 35), Piacenza, 24 Goals, 12th place.
Yes, 35-year-old Dario Hubner scored 24 goals for little Piacenza, a team who finished the season just three points off 15th, the last relegation spot which went to Hellas Verona. Hubner had to share the Capocannoniere that year with Juventus’, David Trezeguet, who also hit 24 goals. But the French international was playing alongside greats such as Alessandro Del Piero and Marcelo Salas, while being supplied by the Czech genius that was Pavel Nedved.
Not only did Hubner have around 10 years on guys like Trezeguet, Henry and Raul, defenders were dealing with a different type of beast altogether. He didn’t have the pace, flicks or tricks of his younger counterparts, but he was a fighter and a clinical finisher. He was a forward who bullied some of the world’s best defenders week in week out in Serie A.
Hubner was known as Il Bisone (The Bison) in Italy, a nickname given to him for his large build and direct style of play. He wasn’t even a finely tuned athlete like today's stars; indeed he was once famously seen smoking a cigarette while sitting on the bench during his time at Brescia. He later confirmed that he would spend his half-time breaks chain-smoking, getting through about three or four cigarettes at a time.
Today, such behaviour would be viewed as scandalous. But that was Hubner, a laid back and controversial character who didn’t care about what anyone thought of him. Yet when he crossed those four white lines, he meant business. And those who played against Il Bisone knew they would be in for a tough game.
It was no fluke that Hubner's name was at the top of the Serie A goal scoring charts. The Trieste born man proved he was capable of scoring goals at every level. In fact, along with Igor Protti, he is the only player to have been crowned top-scorer in all three of Italy’s top divisions (Serie A, B and C during those times).
Hubner was a late bloomer and in 1997, at the age of 30, he made his Serie A debut while playing for Brescia. Despite the veteran striker’s efforts, theBiancoazzurri were relegated that season however he would play an integral part in their revival, scoring 21 goals during the 1999/2000 season, guiding the club back to Serie A. The Rondinelle’s was the same age as Hubner and the two veterans went onto to terrorize Serie A, scoring 27 goals between them and helping Brescia to an impressive seventh place finish.
The following season would be Il Bisone’s best. However, at the age of 34, Hubner was surplus to requirements at Brescia following the arrival of Albanian forward, Igli Tare. He was eventually snapped up by newly promoted Piacenza for £1.5m and it would prove an absolute bargain. Not only did Hubner score 24 goals but he also outscored the likes of Lazio’s Hernan Crespo (who cost a mere £35.5m), AC Milan’s, Andriy Shevchenko, Roma’s Vincenzo Montella and Inter’s Christian Vieri. His shear power and ability in the air made him a nightmare to play against and he was more like an old fashioned British centre forward than one of Serie A’s graceful best.
Hubner eventually retired in 2005, aged 43, while playing for Mantova. Despite being one of Italy’s deadliest forwards at the turn of the century, he never played for his country and never played for one of Italy’s ‘big clubs’. But this did not bother the humble man from Muggia, he just simply loved the game:
“I’m not complaining: as a young man I was a blacksmith and worked with aluminum, who would have guessed I could get to do a career like that? I’m very happy with that.”
Words by Giovanni Dougall: @giovannid86