With the rumour of a marquee signing in the form of a forward not going away, Andrea Belotti’s name is one that is consistently being mentioned.
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When Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens ploughed £60,000,000 into the club to keep it afloat last year, you really wouldn’t blame them if they had turned around to Dean Smith this summer and told him he only has £60,000,000 to spend.
But, Villa’s new owners have surpassed reasonable expectation and backed Smith to the tune of well over £120,000,000, and it doesn’t even look like it will stop there. One position still remains where, despite signing the impressive Wesley Moraes, Aston Villa could do with another good option – up top in the striker position.
It has been rumoured that the last piece of the puzzle is one more striker, and Neil Maupay has been the Villa faithful’s pick so far, after an excellent season with Brentford and ties to Dean Smith.
However, the rumours are that Edens and Sawiris have other thoughts and want to be even more ambitious than just getting one of the Championship’s best. The name Andrea Belotti has been murmured as their target man.
“Italian Stallion, a real fighter”
Anyone who watches Serie A will know that he’s a quick, powerful, athletic striker with excellent positioning, brilliant finishing ability and he has a very powerful shot. He’s also two-footed and despite being 5”11 he actually does very well in the air, too.
Coming through at AlbinoLeffe, Belotti made 39 apps and scored 14 in the third tier of Italian football during the 2012/13 season. Andrea then went to Palermo, climbing the leagues and scoring 16 goals in 62 appearances from 2013-2015 – not setting the world alight, but still very young and an Italian youth international at all age groups. Indeed, Belotti has constantly improved his game, not being as naturally talented as some of his world-beating Italian peers.
In 2015, he moved to Torino, where he has remained in Italy’s top tier and also become a fully-fledged member of the Italian national team, making 22 appearances since 2016 and scoring 5 goals. Andrea Belotti has appeared for Torino 139 times in four seasons, over 30 apps in every single season, and he’s scored 63 goals. That’s one goal in almost every other match.
What’s even more interesting is that Torino are not even a prolific Italian team – they’re a grand old club, but they finish 7-12th in the league and haven’t won it for decades. So, to score 15+ goals a season in a team that’s finishing mid-table is pretty impressive.
Belotti is now Torino’s captain, which is a testament to his well-documented character – always improving, always a leader of men. Clearly, he’s very well respected in one of Europe’s top leagues and still only 25 years old.
Defensively, he makes about 1 tackle a game on average (as a striker, that’s the same as Liverpool’s Firmino). He wins 4.1 aerial duels per game (Harry Kane wins about 2 per match, Van Dijk wins 4.8 per match).
Offensively, he makes one key pass a game, has 3.5 shots per game and dribbles about once per game. Andrea also gets fouled quite a lot – 2.7 times a game which is 102 times over a 38 game season. Mind you, he gives it back and himself commits a foul 1.9 times per game.
His weaknesses are that he does tend to lose the ball quite a lot. On average, 1.6 times a game, and that’s probably because he’s not naturally as silky as some Italian superstars – reflected by the fact he makes a bad touch 2.3 times a game. His passing could also improve – which his reasonably low assist tally reflects; only 3 in 37 apps last season.
Compared to Wesley, he’s more prolific and experienced in a better league, but he’s less creative and less likely to provide assists. Both being hard workers, physical and quick, they might actually complement each other very well if Smith could fit them both in.
Can Aston Villa sign the Italian international?
If you’d asked that in February, the answer would be: absolutely not. Especially one who’s rated at over £30m in market value. He’s Torino’s captain and he has a contract running until 2022 with the club.
But, a player like this would be a perfect fit under Dean Smith – he’s great in the air, his work rate is incredible, his finishing and movement is excellent and he even defends from the front, too.
A statement of intent, but one that would break the bank
Valued at £30m with a long term contract, international status and club captain, it would likely take Villa above the £200m spend threshold for the season to acquire Andrea Belotti’s services.
Edens and Sawiris have already spent almost three quarters of that, and they might just think that this last toss of the coin, the biggest roll of the dice, might be enough to take Aston Villa beyond the reaches of the Premier League’s bottom-half clubs and away from the (lazy) comparison to Fulham. In fact, no club has ever spent £200m in a window and been relegated – perhaps an equally lazy comparison, but an interesting point.
For Belotti, he probably needs a new challenge. He could warrant a move to a Champions League Club, but the big team in Italy are looking to the likes of Lukaku from United as Dybala looks set to go the other way from Juve. And the Premier League is a massive pull, too, along with the knowledge that Belotti stands a good chance of starting most games if he plays under Dean Smith. All good reasons to move to B6, especially if he wants to increase his grip on a competitive Italian national team spot.
It would still be a big risk for Villa and he wouldn’t have much of a preseason, he likely wouldn’t start at Spurs, either. But, with Belotti and Wesley both fighting for the striker position – surely, that really is too much firepower to go down?