Competition has sprung from left-field in the intensifying race to sign Italian sharpshooter Gianluca Lapadula, with Lazio emerging as a genuine threat to frontrunners Leicester City.
Bolstering a small squad ahead of a maiden Champions League campaign is essential for the Premier League winners and Foxes boss Claudio Ranieri has taken a shining to his countryman after seeing him score 24 goals in 38 Serie B appearances for Pescara.
At 26 and without a single top-flight appearance to his name, the obsession (and with Juventus, Napoli and Roma also thought to be interested as well as the aforementioned twosome, it really is an obsession) with Lapadula strikes as a little odd initially, but his parallels with legendary Italian marksman Luca Toni clear up any confusion.
The towering target man, who La Gazzetta dello Sport labelled ‘the last great Italian centre-forward’ earlier this year, announced his 22-year playing career would be coming to an end after Verona’s campaign-concluding trip to Palermo this weekend.
Fittingly, it was with Sicily’s Rosanero where Toni’s career sky-rocketed after several seasons of relative anonymity in Italy’s lower leagues.
He did spend three terms in Serie A with Vicenza then Brescia prior to his 2003/04 switch to then second-tier Palermo, but the success he savoured in the top-tier was nominal compared to his stint at the Renza Barbera.
It was here where, at 26, Toni scored 30 goals in 45 Serie B games.
The following season, back in Serie A this time, he struck 20 more in 35 outings, before commencing a whistle-stop tour around Italy’s top clubs and beyond.
Toni bulged nets for Fiorentina, Bayern Munich, Roma and Juventus among others, while he scored 16 goals in 47 international appearances too. It was playing for La Viola in 2005/06 that he won the European Golden Shoe, becoming the first and only Italian ever to do so, after notching 31 Serie A goals.
But as the curtain falls on one slow-burning Italian’s career, Lapadula is poised to light the touch paper after following the Toni trajectory almost to the letter.
So fending off Lazio’s interest is essential if Leicester want to land a superstar before the extent of his goalscoring talent is exposed.