Every once in a while, a new young player bursts on to the scene and gains widespread acclaim for their quality and promise. It’s not rare though that these players fail to build on their early excellence due to thousands of different reasons and hurdles they fail to climb. This season in Serie A, Andrea Belotti has been the main talking point after scoring 22 goals in the league so far and thereby topping the goalscoring charts. If you hadn’t heard of the 23-year-old striker in the past you could jump to the conclusion he’s just a “flash in the pan” or a “one season wonder”. When looking into his career to date, however, you see this is just the next step of an upwards trajectory spanning five years of continual improvement.
Nicknamed Il Gallo, the rooster, Belotti overcame the disappointment of being denied entry into Atalanta’s famed youth system and joined fellow Bergamasco club UC AlbinoLeffe. After making his way through the ranks, Belotti made his first team debut in 2011/12 when he appeared eight times for the first team in Serie B and scored two goals. At the end of a difficult season, AlbinoLeffe were relegated into Lega Pro, and Belotti was permanently moved into the first team. Belotti was a standout performer throughout the season as the young striker scored 12 goals in 30 league appearances. By now, he’d been spotted by famous sporting director Giorgio Perinetti, previously of AS Roma, SSC Napoli, Juventus, Bari and Siena, then working at Palermo. Perinetti was decisive and brought Belotti from the northern city of Bergamo to the southern island of Sicily, where Belotti joined a side desperate for promotion back to Serie A.
Belotti and Dybala at Palermo. Now they both play in Turin; for different clubs.
Gennaro Gattuso had just been announced as the new manager, but lasted only until September before being replaced by Giuseppe Iachini. Palermo’s squad was incredible at Serie B level; Stefano Sorrentino in goal, Eros Pisano, Ezequiel Muñoz and Sinisa Anđelković among the defenders, a midfield that included Édgar Barreto, Davide Di Gennaro, Francesco Bolzoni and Valerio Verre and an attack featuring Belotti, Abel Hernández, Paulo Dybala and Kyle Lafferty. Midway through the season, the squad was further strengthened by veteran midfielder Enzo Maresca, wing back Achraf Lazaar and trequartista Franco Vázquez. Belotti fitted in seamlessly, scored 10 in 24 games and helped this superb squad secure promotion back into Serie A.
Belotti played in every one of the 38 league games in the following 2014/15 season, but only scored six goals as Dybala and Vázquez sparkled. Belotti provided the workrate and pressing to allow the two Argentine creators to focus on constructing Palermo’s attacking play. A comfortable mid table finish ensured another season in the top flight was on the cards. Dybala left in the summer of 2015 though, joining Juventus in the most high-profile departure from Sicily that summer. He wasn’t the only attacker embarking on a new adventure up in Turin though, as Belotti signed for Gian Piero Ventura’s Torino. To sign the striker, Torino had to part with 7.5 million euro, but their investment would prove a significant bargain.
In Ventura’s 3-5-2, Belotti slotted in up front next to Ciro Immobile. Belotti struggled in front of goal for the first half of the season, only finding the net once. After Christmas however, Belotti found his form. Eleven goals followed in the ritorno part of the season as he concluded his first season in Turin with 12 goals in 35 Serie A games. After Ventura took charge of the Italian national team following Antonio Conte’s departure, Belotti got his first call up to the full squad, making his debut against France in September 2016. He was then made a starter in the side and currently has three goals in six international appearances.
Belotti’s trademark rooster celebration.
This term, Belotti’s form has been marvellous. After enjoying a consistent run of decent campaigns in front of goal, varying between six and 12 goals, Belotti has scored 22 goals in 24 Serie A matches, as well as two in three Coppa Italia matches, taking his current tally for the season to 24 goals in 27 games. The striker has been exceptional, and really thrived as a lone striker in Sinisa Mihajlovic’ 4-3-3 after several years as part of a duo.
Here we take a look at every single one of his strikes, divided into volleys, headers, solo goals, 1v1s and poacher goals.
Most of Belotti’s goals are one touch finishes, often around the six-yard-area as his instinct and positioning is second to none. In the video you see different type of volleys, all on one touch and at high speed.
Here are several strikes where Belotti finds himself in the right place at the right time. This isn’t a coincidence. The best poachers, the Filippo Inzaghi’s, Ruud van Nistelrooy’s or Alberto Gilardino’s, have exceptional intelligence of reading the game to anticipate where the ball may end up. This is why the lazy observation of these strikers being “lucky” is extremely naive. These players are incredibly intelligent and can read the game as well as anyone.
Thanks to his imposing physical frame and excellent movement in the box, Belotti is extremely difficult to mark inside the penalty area. From crosses and set-pieces, Belotti is a real handful and his heading technique makes him superb in the air. Look at the quality of his movement, the timing of his runs and the impressive leap he has in his locker.
Look again on that last goal against Milan. Analyse Belotti’s movement just before the cross is delivered. He makes a little run to the right of Alessio Romagnoli to make the defender take a step in that direction, before quickly changing direction and beating the defender to the ball. Superb.
Here we see a selection of different types of goals. The first a powerful run from his own half, the second an emphatic finish with his “weaker” foot, a penalty and finally two strikes where his physical strength is highlighted as he powers his way through to score. Actually, one of Belotti’s areas of improvement is penalty taking as he’s missed three this season.
When through on goal in 1v1s with the goalkeeper, Belotti is as cool as a cucumber. Right or left foot doesn’t matter, the Italian will calmly finish and show off his rooster celebration. As you may have noted by now, Belotti is by no means a flat track bully either. Among his goals this season we find strikes against Juventus, Roma, Inter, Milan, Napoli and Fiorentina. So many defenders of different characteristics and attributes in teams with different setups have tried to stop Belotti from scoring, but he scores against anyone.
If we move away from goalscoring, Belotti is also very adept in his overall play. His target play is superb, he can play short to link with midfielders and he can play passes in behind for onrushing teammates. Despite his huge physical stature, Belotti can also dribble defenders with quick footwork and technique as well as brushing them away with his power, making him a complete centre forward.
As you see, Belotti is also of use outside the box. Still, to play for the biggest teams that tend to dominate possession and where forwards normally are more involved in the build up play, Belotti need to improve his technique further, as he can be clumsy on rare occasions. As a target player he’s already fully developed, but as a linking striker he can still improve.
After two seasons now starring for the Granata Andrea Belotti has now gathered a huge interest in his services. Many clubs will contact Torino in the spring and summer to see if a deal is possible. The club has already inserted a buyout clause of 100 million euro in his contract, so whoever comes looking for Belotti won’t be able to strike a deal cheaply. This is understandable, as Belotti has developed into one of the most complete centre-forwards in Europe. Prolific in front of goal and useful in overall play, Belotti could likely slot into any team in Europe if given some time to adapt to his new team’s playing style. In Turin, the Torino fans love their rooster, and hope is he’ll remain with them for a long time to usher in a new era of challenging the big clubs once again. After all, Torino is one of Italy’s biggest clubs historically and the opportunity to become a talisman at the club is certainly something.
Il Gallo is one fire at the moment and given his steady rise towards the top over the last five years, there’s no way telling how far Andrea Belotti can go.