By Blair Newman, Football Whispers
Torino were drawing 0-0 with Sassuolo as half-time approached last Sunday. Then Andrea Belotti intervened. Lorenzo Di Silvestri broke down the right flank before floating a cross deep into the penalty box. With defenders surrounding him and his back to goal, Belotti found the net with an acrobatic bicycle kick.
The Italian’s stunning strike is already being talked about as a Serie A goal of the season contender, and it would be difficult to find an effort displaying greater technique, ingenuity or audacity across Europe’s top leagues so far this season. But it came as little surprise to those who follow the Italian game and know of the striker’s immense talents.
Belotti has been the subject of intense transfer speculation throughout the summer, and he has recently re-emerged as a Chelsea transfer target. And while the Premier League champions have already added to their attack with Alvaro Morata’s signing, they would be foolish not to consider a move for Torino’s primary finisher if it is financially feasible.
As the summer deadline approaches, the Blues are running out of time to seal a deal for the player. Here our friends at Football Whispers explain why they should move quickly to make it happen in the coming days.
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Diego Costa was in fine fettle last season, but after a falling-out with Antonio Conte he looks set to leave the club. Indeed, even if he stays he is unlikely to see much time on the pitch. This leaves Chelsea with a void to fill up front.
Morata has done a good job so far, instantly showing his class with two goals in three games. However, the Spaniard isn’t a like-for-like replacement. On top of that, he lacks support with Michy Batshuayi yet to truly convince.
Stylistically and tactically, Belotti is the most natural replacement for Costa there is. He is an intimidating central presence up front, using his physical strength well to hold off markers and make space for himself and others. He also moves intelligently, dragging defenders with him, and isn’t afraid to turn and run directly at the opposition’s back line.
An aggressive dribbler with rugged physicality and a powerful finish, the Italian would suit Conte’s tactics well. He’d provide the blunt force alongside the more nuanced touches of Eden Hazard and Pedro. Last season’s statistics paint a similarly positive picture.
While Costa completed 0.7 dribbles per game more, Belotti averaged more shots and key passes per game. This is all the more impressive considering he played for an upper-mid-table Serie A side, not title contenders.
The Torino man did make fewer passes on average, but his pass success percentage was virtually the same at 75.1 per cent compared to the Chelsea forward’s 75.2 per cent.
Without the ball at feet, Belotti was also more effective. He averaged more tackles and interceptions per game, while also receiving half as many yellow cards in total. Essentially, he is Costa without the unnecessary aggro.
His willingness to lead the line has been indulged in the last two seasons by Sinisa Mihajlovic. The Torino head coach has moved away from the 3-5-2 favoured by his predecessor, current Italy boss Giampiero Ventura, to implement a 4-3-3 in which the 23-year-old striker is his focal point.
The former AC Milan coach was impressed with his star striker’s latest effort, telling Sky Italia: “Belotti is not yet at his best, but with that goal he showed he is worth €100m.”
Belotti has become an increasingly self-centred and clinical finisher in recent years, but this is more to do with Torino’s aforementioned tactical adjustment than any change in personality. He remains a hard-working team player and is more than able and willing to diligently undertake defensive duties.
In the past, when part of a front two, he would often drop deep without possession in order to cover the opposition’s deepest midfielder. This prevented central forward passes from the centre-backs, forcing them wide and making it easier for his team to defend.
Belotti has similar responsibilities with the national team, where he teams up with Ventura once again and often plays in a strike partnership with Ciro Immobile, a former Torino team-mate. Despite a less prominent role for country than for club, his record at international level is impressive – in nine caps he has found the net four times.
Scoring goals in Italy is arguably easier now than it has been at any point in football history, something shown in the fact Serie A is regularly one of Europe’s highest scoring leagues. However, defences on the peninsula remain meticulously organised, and defending well remains an important aspect of most top Italian sides.
That Belotti has been able to score so consistently in the country’s top tier is, therefore, something worthy of recognition. In three full seasons of top-level football, he has broken into double figures twice. And, having hit a career-record 26 in 35 league outings last term, he only seems to be improving.
He would more than likely relish the tight man-marking of English defences, using his combination of physical, mental and technical attributes to win one-on-one duels. And, with the extra space that could be found in the Premier League, his goals tally would only go up.
Chelsea have a first-rate striker in Morata, but if they want to go deep in Europe while retaining their domestic title they will need another option. Belotti would be the ideal choice.