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Udinese’s aspiration for the season of 2009/2010 was a top six finish. Instead the north-east Italian club has spent most of the campaign in the second half of the table – hovering dangerously close to the relegation zone.

Despite the team’s below par performances, one player has risen above the rest – and has with his goalscoring abilities almost single-handedly kept the side from an otherwise certain drop to Italy’s second tier.

Antonio Di Natale has found the back of the net on 25 occasions this season – hitting five more than Inter Milan’s Argentinean hitman, Diego Milito.

Considering the team’s poor performances, it’s a testament to the player’s abilities that he’s able to score the goals – not only the vital ones, but also the beautiful ones. Two hattricks, a handful of braces and numerous singles have resulted in countless of crucial points and is the reason that the club is currently sitting on 14th place – a good eight points from the relegation zone.

Enjoying his best season to date, Di Natale looks certain to collect the desirable Capocannoniere crown at the end of the season. The Udinese forward was also contender to the trophy last season, but a horrible injury in the latter stages of the campaign put an end to those aspirations.

Few believed that the Napoli-born striker would return to his former level – or to the game at all – after suffering that terrible knee injury while on international duty last March – forcing the forward to watch the remainder of the season from the sidelines as one Zlatan Ibrahimovic ultimately finished as the league’s top scorer.

A dedicated and ultimately successful rehabilitation saw Di Natale ready to start the current season with Udinese. Despite amid interest from Spanish and German clubs along with the top Italian sides over the years, Di Natale opted to stay in Udine and ended speculation by putting pen to paper on a five-year deal that will keep him at the club until 2013.

With Udinese currently having nothing left to play for – expecting that nothing of the unexpected occurs in the final three rounds – Di Natale is still sure to add a couple goals to his tally before he wraps up the Capocannoniere crown – something that seemed like a real possibility only a few short weeks into the current campaign.

With seven goals in his first five outings, the player showcased that he had returned to his former level – once again attracting the attention of Italy coach, Marcello Lippi. Although the former Juventus tactician is yet to select his squad, the Udinese forward is highly likely to feature and could be leading the frontline in South Africa as Italy look to defend their World Cup title this summer.

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