29. Andrea Belotti
‘Il gallo regola il posatoio’ – This translates to ‘the rooster rules the roost’ and this has certainly been the case with Andrea Belotti this season. The Italian international has taken Serie A by storm this season with Torino, scoring 26 goals (a tally that is only bettered by Roma’s Edin Dzeko and Napoli’s Dries Mertens) helping the Granata to a 9th place finish. It has truly been a stellar campaign for the 23-year-old, smashing his previous best ever goal tally which was 12 in the previous season.
Belotti is a rare commodity in today’s footballing world, as strikers like him are not found very often. Often compared to one of the great Italian strikers in Gianluca Vialli, his clinical nature will grab the headlines but Belotti’s game is much more than that. His willingness to bring his wingers into play by holding up the ball and releasing them as he darts into the box is an extremely underrated asset of his game and a high percentage of his goals coming from him being in the box in the right place at the right time to put the ball in the back of the net. Another thing that is rarely mentioned is his work rate. Belotti has always had this knack of wanting to work hard for the time for the full 90 minutes, a trait that has served him in good stead up to this point. While most strikers press for a few seconds before jogging back to position, Belotti works tirelessly with the rest of his team without possession and it is this work ethic that has always kept him onside with the fans even when the goals were not so seemingly easy to come by.
Belotti possesses the ability to score all types of goals, whether it be him tapping the ball in from close range or a bullet header leaving the keeper with no chance. Of the 26 goals he scored this season, 11 of those came with his right foot, 5 with his left foot and 10 using his head so there is a fair few ways that he is able to get his name on the score sheet as shown with superb displays against the likes of Milan, Torino and Sassuolo during this season. He is also so well rounded that he is able to adjust his game to suit the team setup. He does not have blistering pace like an Aubameyang but he has a good turn of pace that is beneficial as he is able to run in behind and slot the ball in the back of the net. Belotti’s pace works hand in hand with his movement, he knows exactly how to hold his run and stay on the shoulder of the defender or to spin in behind of the defence (have a look at his goal for Italy vs. Liechtenstein.)
Coupled with a fancy trademark celebration, the world now knows of Belotti, and with a new €100M release clause there will be many teams lining up a move for him in the summer. Manchester United have been repeatedly linked with him and he could be the missing piece in the jigsaw. But for all the good that has come from this breakout campaign for the Italian, there are fears that it could be yet another case of déjà vu regarding Torino players leaving after an impressive season. Comparisons have been made to another Italian striker in Ciro Immobile who also had a stellar campaign for Torino a few seasons ago before a dreadful spell in the Bundesliga fast tracked a move back to Italy with Lazio where he has found his form once again. If you want further proof then you also look at Alessio Cerci who like Immobile left Torino for Atletico Madrid after having a great season and now is rotting away on the bench in Madrid so there isn’t even a happy ending to this as he seems to have lost all confidence and a move back to Italy in a bid to resurrect his career is looking more likely.
It will be interesting to see whether Belotti follows in Immobile and Cerci’s footsteps and leaves for a big European club off the back of a superb season and risk flopping or will he remain at Turin to continue his development? The question is should he and whilst all the obvious signs suggest that he would be better off staying with the Granata for an extra season, I truly believe that he should leave if the right club comes in for him. Many people have reservations about Il Gallo joining their club due to the history with Italian strikers not doing so well abroad (particularly in the Premier League) however Belotti has proven that he has all the ingredients that are required to succeed elsewhere. His willingness to work for the team is again something I have to highlight because it is something that coaches are always trying to get out of strikers and Belotti already has that in him so whilst he might not score every game, you know that you will have a striker that will work his socks off for the team.
Any team who acquires the young Italian from Turin will instantly be better off on the attacking front.