Torino’s Andrea Belotti: The €100-million man


Torino's Andrea Belotti celebrates after he scored during a Serie A soccer match between Torino and Milan, at Turin's Olympic stadium, Italy, Monday, Jan. 16, 2017. (Alessandro Di Marco/ANSA via AP)

Name: Andrea Belotti
Born: December 20, 1993, in Calcinate, Italy
Position: Striker
Pro club: Torino

Why is he in the news?
At 23, Belotti is one of the hottest youngsters in world soccer. The Torino striker has been on fire during the current Serie A campaign. He ranks second in the Italian league scoring race with 14 goals in 17 games, and has 16 goals in 21 appearances in all competitions this term.

He is also one of Europe’s most sought-after strikers, with a host of English Premier League clubs interested in his services, including Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United. In fact, Torino sporting director Gianluca Petrachi claimed last week that the Italian outfit rejected a €65-million bid from the Gunners for Belotti.

Turning down that kind of offer might sound crazy, but the fact is it’s going to take a lot more cash to secure the Italian on a transfer move—last month, Torino signed Belotti to an extension through 2021, and the new contract includes a €100-million release clause that applies to non-Italian teams. To put that number in context, Juventus had to pay a €90-million release fee to Napoli for Gonzalo Higuain last summer.

He’s special because
Aside from his insane price tag and that some of the biggest clubs in the world are after him? Well, he’s been on an incredible run of form in Serie A this season, and has been touted as the next great Italian star.

Able to slot in anywhere across the front line, he prefers to play as a second striker, but he’s mostly been used as a lone striker in Torino coach Sinisa Mihajlovic’s preferred 4-4-3 formation. Marrying a solid worth ethic and physical strength to a goal-poacher’s instinct, he’s been compared to Italian icons Roberto Boninsegna and Gianluca Vialli, and been heralded not only for his finishing but also his ability to hold up the ball.

Belotti uses his physical prowess to great effect inside the penalty area, as he’s scored a number of headers this season and is a constant threat in the air. He also uses his strength to hold off defenders and drag them all over the pitch, thus opening up spaces for teammates to exploit.

Club career
After an unsuccessful trial with Atalanta, Belotti signed with Serie B outfit AlbinoLeffe. He made his youth team debut in 2010, starting out as a midfielder and a winger. He struggled at first, but then found success when he was moved up top as a striker, and he made his senior-team debut late in the 2011–12 Serie B campaign. AlbinoLeffe was relegated, but he flourished in Italy’s third division, scoring 12 goals in 2012–13, and attracted interest from several bigger clubs.

He was sent out on loan to Palermo the following season, and the Sicilian club eventually bought him outright from AlbinoLeffe. Palermo earned promotion that year, and Belotti ended up scoring six goals during the 2014–15 Serie A campaign.

A €7.5-million transfer move to Torino in August 2014 followed, and it was with the I Granata — “the Maroons” — and under then-coach Giampiero Ventura that his club career began to take off, as he netted 12 goals during the 2015–16 Serie A season. After scoring just once in his first five months at the club, Belotti bagged 11 goals in the second half of the campaign.

International career
Belotti played for Italy at youth level—U-19, U-20 and U-21—and scored one goal at the 2015 UEFA Under-21 Championship in Czech Republic.

Despite scoring 12 goals and being one of the highest-scoring Italians during the 2015–16 Serie A campaign, Belotti was overlooked by former Azzurri coach Antonio Conte for Euro 2016 in France.

He earned his first senior-team call-up last September under Giampiero Ventura (who succeeded Conte), making his Azzurri debut in a 3–1 loss to France in an international friendly. He scored his first goal for Italy on Oct. 9, 2016, in a World Cup qualifier against Macedonia. The following month, he bagged a brace in a 4–0 win over Liechtenstein in World Cup qualifying.

In total, Belotti has three goals in five national-team appearances, and looks to be a major part of Ventura’s plans for the rest of Italy’s 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign.

His most famous moment
On Aug. 26, 2016, he scored his first career hat trick in Torino’s 5–1 home win over Bologna in Serie A.

Here are a few interesting facts
• He grew up as an AC Milan fan, and idolized Ukraine star Andriy Shevchenko.
• His nickname is il Gallo — “the Rooster” — a handle of a childhood friend. Belotti celebrates each of his goals by mimicking a rooster, putting his open hand to his forehead to represent a rooster comb while scurrying about with teammates.
• He took a pay cut to join Palermo (then in Serie B) in 2013 in order to move up to the Italian leagues.
• During his time at Palermo in Serie A he played alongside Argentine star Paulo Dybala, now at Juventus.

What they’re saying about him
“If this continues he will be able to play for any team in the world.” – Torino manager Sinisa Mihajlovic

He said it
“My father told me: ‘If you don’t leave the pitch absolutely exhausted, it means you haven’t given it your all.’ I like to work hard.” – Belotti told Italian sports daily La Gazzetta dello Sport


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