Andrea Belotti is no longer Serie A’s best kept secret. His breakthrough season can begin a successful spell not seen by a young Italian forward in a decade
Serie A’s Capocannoniere (goal leader) is a highly sought after prize. It is a deeply debated topic by many footballing pundits. At the beginning of this season it looked to be a three-way race between foreigners on Serie A’s top clubs. Argentinian’s Mauro Icardi and Gonzalo Higuain, both past winners and Edin Dzeko were piped by experts to take the title. Little did they know that an Italian from a mid-table club could pose a serious challenge.
Andrea Belotti, or “Il Gallo” started off humbly with Albinoleffe bouncing between the second and third divisions of the Italian football pyramid only four years ago as a teenager.
A year later the youngster from Lombardia headed south to Sicily donning the pink of Palermo. It was here where he displayed his iconic celebration. A childhood friend of his jokingly suggested he celebrate his goals by mimicking a rooster’s comb with an open hand to his forehead. Thus his avian nickname was born, and it has stuck since. In his first season he helped Palermo return to Serie A scoring 16 goals in his first two seasons before being bought out fully by Torino. It was an important step in the budding star’s career.
After a slow first half, Belotti exploded for 11 goals after December in the 2015-16 season. Momentum carried forward for Il Gallo starting the 2016-17 campaign on fire with 5 goals in his first two games. His great form earned him a call up from former bench boss Giampiero Ventura where he has 3 goals in 5 games for the Azzurri.
Presently, Belotti now has 17 goals on the season, 1 back of Gonzalo Higuain and Edin Dzeko for the goal scoring lead. Better yet he now has 29 goals in 56 games for Torino that’s better than a goal every other game. What makes Belotti’s goal scoring prowess even more impressive is that he is Italian, and under 25. His tally at Torino is record setting, as no previous player in the history of the club has the goals-to-games ratio that Belotti has, 17 in 24.
In recent years the Capocannoniere crown has gone mostly to foreigners. Not counting Ciro Immobile two seasons ago the other two Italians who’ve won the Serie A scoring race in the last decade were Luca Toni and Antonio Di Natale. Both were well into their 30’s when they won. Belotti is on pace for about 30 goals, the last Italian to do so was Toni 11 seasons ago. Unlike his competition, Belotti is scoring with a team that on paper is weaker than their respective clubs. No disrespect to Torino who are having a great season, but imagine the kind of damage Belotti can do with Paulo Dybala or Mohammed Salah.
Il Gallo not only makes the difference up front but all around. He tracks back defensively and uses his body and deceptiveness to win the ball back. His timing of runs is superb and plays best in front of goal, like a classic centre forward.
He has been compared to Roberto Boninsegna and Gianluca Vialli, two legends of the game. What makes Belotti even more impressive is his personality off the pitch. Always joyous and lively, he is also humble, never taking for granted the opportunity that was given to him. He has stayed loyal to the Granata, so much so he recently signed a new contract with a 100 million Euro release clause valid only for foreign clubs. Being a serious contender for the Capocannoniere not just this season but for many years to come. This young, clinical, and humble young man is the perfect face for the new generation of Serie A talent emerging.
As more teams focus on local youth, they will look to Belotti’s as an example of player development paying off. You will hear Andrea Belotti’s name more often in the years to follow both at club and international level. 2017 is the year of the rooster, and it’s only just beginning.