With Rooney likely to leave during the summer transfer window, and Ibrahimovic’s future at the club in doubt after speculation of a move to the MLS; United are in dire need of a centre-forward who has the ability to spearhead their new-look attack.
There’s no doubt that Marcus Rashford has the potential to be a world-class striker, but at just nineteen years old, Mourinho risks destroying his meteoric development by over playing the youngster. With the schedule the Red Devils have endured over the last two months, physical and mental fitness will be of paramount importance heading into the early stages of next season.
There is no denying that the Premier League is demanding. Its schedule is unforgiving to those who underestimate the need for adequate recovery and the sheer number of teams fighting it out for the coveted top four positions requires players to be at peak physical fitness all year round. An industrious personality is crucial to success, and Manchester United’s most recent transfer target fits the bill perfectly.
An industrious personality is one of the many reasons for Andrea Belotti’s rise to Serie A stardom. Born in Calcinate, about 70km east of Milan in northern Italy, Belotti didn’t have the most promising starts to his career in Italian football. After a trial with Serie A side Atalanta didn’t work out, “Il Gallo” was sought after by Serie B outfit AlbinoLeffe in 2006. After working his way through the youth ranks, Belotti finally earned his debut in a 4-1 defeat to Livorno which sent AlbinoLeffe into “Serie C2” – the fourth tier of Italian football. He remained loyal to his team, and after two seasons he was loaned to Serie B’s Palermo.
Belotti scored ten times over his first season in Palermo, helping them secure first place and automatic promotion into Italy’s Serie A with a record-breaking 86 points under the guidance of Giuseppe Iachini. Just two weeks after his first Serie A appearance at the age of twenty, Palermo announced that they had completed the transfer for the coveted striker. Used largely as a substitute for the Argentinian Paulo Dybala, Andrea netted just six goals in his first Serie A campaign.
Almost exactly a year later, Belotti signed for Torino in 2015 for an inexpensive €7.5million. He then went on to double his goal tally for the previous season, scoring the majority of his goals in the early months of 2016; which proved to be his breakout year. Since the start of this season under the management of Siniša Mihajlović, Andrea has scored an incredible 30 goals in 39 appearances for “I Granata”.
It’s easy to see why many pundits have compared Andrea Belotti to England’s own Jamie Vardy; the rise from the lower leagues; the relentless desire to improve; the stubbornness to never give up on a lost cause; the list goes on. From a young age, Andrea’s father taught him the importance of self-sacrifice. In interviews, he recalls times when he would go to sleep holding back tears because his friends would go out partying, while he would stay in because of a game the next morning. He understands the significance of staying humble and appreciating the sacrifices his loved ones made so that he could pursue the career of his dreams. “I’m still more eager to be a good person than a good player” speaks volumes about his mentality towards those around him.
“He’s a player who runs and fights for ninety minutes. Everyone likes him, coaches and fans, because he never gives an inch.” – Fabio Cannavaro
That selfless mentality reverberates onto the football field, where Belotti fights tooth and nail for his team. Often described as the first line of Torino’s defence, Andrea uses his rare combination of speed and strength to hassle defenders into making an error. Though a joy to watch, he can be reckless in the challenge, which could potentially lead to referees singling him out; much in the way that Diego Costa is “victimised” by officials – though not nearly quite as brash.
Belotti became the first player across Europe’s top five leagues to score three goals with his head, left foot and right foot this season. While equally adept with both feet, his biggest threat is his heading ability, which is no mean feat given he stands at an average 5’10. Tidy footwork, close control and powerful running allow “il Gallo” to break free of tight situations, while an innate ability to arrive in the area at just the right moment unsettles defenders who have trouble keeping up with his deceptive movement. Combine all of the above with a fearless attitude and willingness to succeed, and you have a complete striker for whom no limits can be set; Belotti’s own tattoo reads Michael Jordan’s quote “Limits, like fears, are often illusions”.
With a €100million buyout clause in his contract which runs until 2021, Torino are in no rush to sell their prodigious talent. Recent appearances for the Azzurri have only increased Belotti’s market value and United can expect any further offers in the region of €75million to be rejected with haste.
Belotti is the full package; granted, he could be a one-hit-wonder and never quite live up to the hype outside of the Serie A or even this current season. But, with the ever-changing face of modern football, and the sheer number of clubs interested in Italy’s new prince, Mourinho would be foolish not to snap him up to replace Ibrahimovic as the starting centre forward.