The emergence of Torino bomber Andrea Belotti in 2016 has blessed new Azzurri boss Giampiero Ventura with a viable long-term solution to La Nazionale’s prolonged striker problem.
The name being uttered frequently amongst Azzurri supporters to take possession of the nine role atop the Italian attack has emerged in the form of Andrea Belotti. Since swapping the pink and black colours of Palermo two summers ago for Torino’s Maroon, “The Rooster” has injected new life into an Italy side seeking a hitman to lead the front line for the future.
Meet Andrea Belotti-
Date of birth: 20 December 1993 (23 years old)
Club: Torino FC
Height: 1,81 m
International caps: Italy U-19 (6 app, 2 goals), Italy U-20 (9 app, 4 goals), Italy U-21 (20 app, 9 goals), Italy (3 app, 1 goal)
Prior to his sudden rise in the peninsula, Andrea Belotti began his playing career with then-Serie B club AlbinoLeffe nearly six years ago. Belotti carried AlbinoLeffe’s youth side in 2011-12 with an impressive 13 goals before making his debut with senior side in the latter stages of the campaign. Though he was unable to score in a handful of appearances from March on, it was evident that a young star was beginning to emerge in Bergamo.
After a stellar 2012-13 showing in Lega Pro- Girone B nabbing a dozen goals, it was Palermo president Maurizio Zamparini who initiated contact with AlbinoLeffe for their surging striker.
In August, the newly demoted Sicilians and AlbinoLeffe reached an agreement on a loan deal that included an option for the Rosanero to make the deal a co-ownership at the conclusion of the season.
Belotti made his Serie B debut for Palermo in September 2013 as a substitute in the 73rd minute for Davide Di Gennaro, providing an assist in a losing effort to Bari. Then, in an early-October match with Brescia, he buried his first goal for the club in a 1-1 draw.
Life in Italy’s second division seemed rather easy for the striker, scoring ten goals and supplying four assists in 24 appearances, via transfermarkt. However, the following season he was unable to translate that same output over to the Serie A, managing just six goals in 38 matches.
After the difficult debut season in Italy’s top tier, Zamparini elected to cash in on one of his top assets, selling Belotti to Torino in August 2015 for an estimated 7.5 million euro. The Palermo owner, famously known for making very shrewd decisions with the club’s squad and infrastructure, sold two of his top attackers in Paulo Dybala and Andrea Belotti the same summer. With the Rosanero barely avoiding the drop back to Serie B, it was a blessing in disguise for Belotti.
Despite scoring just once through mid-January 2016, Belotti found his groove for the Granata in last season’s second half, racking up 11 goals for the club. In 2016, the 22-year old stands alone atop the scoring charts among Italians playing in Europe’s five major leagues.
Once Ventura replaced Antonio Conte on the Azzurri bench, you knew it was only a matter of time until Belotti was donning the blue shirt of La Nazionale.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Andrea Belotti checks off nearly all the boxes required of a striker.
Link-up ability is an area many seem to struggle with. Either they do not meet the passing requirements, are bound to the penalty area or simply lack the work-rate. Belotti often drifts into the midfield to retrieve possession. In fact, it was done with regularity last season when speedy wing-backs Bruno Peres and Davide Zappacosta provided him two channels to play in.
In my opinion, his movement in the final third is among the best in Italy. As a striker, you must be an outlet for your wingers and midfielders. Belotti makes himself available and keeps opposing defenders honest as they know failing to mark him could be detrimental.
His movement has been credited, but he is also an underrated threat in the speed department. Determined to spring forward, Belotti poses a problem for any defender in Serie A, especially when he is on form. Instinctively, he tends to lurk around the penalty area for loose balls, similar to that of a poacher. AC Milan legend Pippo Inzaghi practically trademarked this unique skill. By no means is Belotti a box-predator like the iconic Rossoneri striker, but he does have a knack for being positioned well when these situations arise. A testament to his awareness.
Despite his first half struggles last year, Belotti is a clinical forward who has the tenacity to win 50-50 balls in the air. It’s not only in skill, but his athleticism as well, that allows him to be a potent threat to head home a few each year.
Credit to “Gallo” who has proven over the course of 12 months — for club and country — that he can make the adjustments necessary to succeed at the top level.
As mentioned earlier, Belotti really is a dream attacker for any manager seeking versatility and endless possibilities. Sure, his left foot could use a bit of tender, love, and care, but remember, he’s still only 22. If I was writing this piece up a year ago, perhaps my evaluation of his weaknesses would have been more extensive. It’s brief and that’s because he has grown exponentially. Fulfilling his potential.
At the youthful age of 22, the future looks very bright for Italy’s first-choice striker. Belotti has not cooled in the slightest since the 2015-16 campaign ended when Ventura departed for national team duties.
Under Siniša Mihajlović, we are witnessing a more refined; more polished number nine. Since the calendar shift to 2016, Belotti has been the best Italian striker in Europe and is an early-season candidate for the Capocannoniere with five goals to date. This — and the fact there is a mutual understanding for one another — is why Belotti is being seeded a starting role for Italy by Ventura.
The ex-Bari allenatore has been a strong advocate of Belotti ever since the two linked up in Turin. Now that he has become a legitimate contender for the Capocannoniere, handing him a regular place in the Azzurri XI is a no-brainer given the lack of options. Belotti has done everything needed to be a genuine force in Italy. That being said, it’s understood that he now becomes the subject of transfer rumors across Europe. Several clubs in Italy would absolutely fall in love with the idea of Belotti as their hitman, however his future looks to be in Turin, at least for now.
Make no mistake about it. The Rooster is crowing in Italy and with no signs of stoppage.
Follow my football ramblings and various workings on Twitter @Matt_Santangelo.