Antonio Di Natale Announces Decision to Retire Following Serie A Season

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistJanuary 6, 2014

UDINE, ITALY - JANUARY 06:  Antonio Di Natale of Udinese Calcio reacts during the Serie A match between Udinese Calcio and Hellas Verona FC at Stadio Friuli on January 6, 2014 in Udine, Italy.  (Photo by Dino Panato/Getty Images)
Dino Panato/Getty Images

After a lengthy and successful football career, Udinese forward Antonio Di Natale has announced he will retire following the season.   

From Football Italia:

Natale has had success both for club and country and has been capped for Italy 42 times. He also played in three World Cup games in 2010, scoring one goal. But his real mark will be his time for Udinese, where he's scored 164 Serie A goals since joining the team in the 2004-05 season.

Though he also spent eight years at Empoli, his legacy will always be most closely tied to his Udinese days and his goal-scoring record, especially once he hit his 30s.

He wasn't just a prolific scorer, however, as Julian De Martinis of ESPN notes:

After scoring 23 or more goals in four straight seasons, the 36-year-old has slowed down this season, with just four goals in 16 Serie A appearances. His 6.59 average match rating at WhoScored.com is well below his average rating of 7.45 since the 2009-10 campaign.

And he also provided some brilliant moments along the way, perhaps none better than this strike against Chievo last season that was one of 10 goals considered for FIFA's Puskas Award, though it didn't make the cut as one of the three finalists.

Still, it was a thing of beauty. Check it out below:

Without question, Italian football is losing a true gem in Di Natale. Like Andrea Pirlo and all of those fine Italian wines, he was the rare player who only seemed to get better with age.

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