Is Belotti still a €100m risk worth taking for Chelsea or Man Utd?

Andrea Belotti Torino
The Torino striker became one of the most sought-after frontmen on the planet last season, but is he what Antonio Conte or Jose Mourinho needs now?

“One-season wonder” – a title nobody wants, particularly strikers whose reputation and value rests squarely on their ability to contribute a steady stream of goals.

Unfortunately for the frontmen of the world, their chosen position places them under the brightest of spotlights and under the greatest threat of being written off at the drop of a hat.

At the focal point of an attack, those who make a living out of finding the back of the net take to the field every week knowing that their standing in the eyes of a global audience can shift dramatically between hero and no-hoper.

Hit a purple patch and plaudits will rain down, transfer valuations will rocket and a list of suitors will become more Manchester United than Hartlepool United.

Alternatively, see the goals dry up and a barren run will have you longing for another call from the Victoria Ground.

That may be a little extreme, with those at the very top of the food chain often enduring droughts in the final third without being banished to deepest, darkest Durham.

The point is valid, though, with the picture in a striking sense shifting considerably from one game to the next, never mind year on year and season after season.

Andrea Belotti Chelsea Manchester United

Among those currently clinging to a perch towards the top of the attacking pile is Andrea Belotti, with the Torino forward having surged to the summit in 2016-17 amid a flurry of goals and much talk of a €100 million release clause.

On his way to ending the season with 28 goals across all competitions, plenty of interested parties gave serious consideration to tabling a bid which would trigger a potential exit.

Belotti had not quite come from nowhere to become one of the game’s most sought-after assets, but his story was one of rapid rise – with his efforts across one campaign seeing him match his combined total from the previous three.

At 24 years of age, he is now in just his fourth year as a performer in the Italian top-flight, with a place on the books at Serie C outfit AlbinoLeffe occupied as recently as September 2013 – prior to a move to Palermo.

He was reported to be a target for Manchester United, Chelsea, Real Madrid and AC Milan as his breakthrough season came to a close – but a combination of factors led to all eventually looking elsewhere.

Speculation has surfaced again with another window now open, but is Belotti still worth the kind of risk that was considered over the summer?

There is no doubting that he boasts all of the attributes required to be an elite frontman, particularly the physical qualities which often separate the best from the rest amid the blood and thunder of life in the Premier League.

Belotti, though, has seen his standards dip in 2017-18, with niggling knocks doing little to aid his cause.

By mid-January 16-17 17-18
Goals 14 4
Headed goals 4 0
Shot accuracy 54 42.86
Conversion rate 28 9.52
Assists 3 0
Chances created 35 18
Pass accuracy 77.66 72.79
Big chance % 60 20
Touches per game 39.59 37.89

Injuries will concern interested parties, with Torino having been forced to rule out ligament damage during a current spell on the sidelines, but it is end product on which he will ultimately be judged and any decision on future destinations made.

Having now reached mid-January in the current campaign, Belotti has found the target just four times in Serie A.

To put that return in context, by the same stage last term he had 14 goals to his name – including four headed efforts, compared to none this time around.

He had also contributed three assists (none in 2017-18), created 35 chances (compared to 18 presently), boasted shooting accuracy of 54 per cent (currently 42.86), a conversion rate of 28% (now 9.52) and passing accuracy of 77.66% (which has dipped to 72.79).

Admittedly he had made three more appearances by this point in 2016-17, but there has still been a very obvious wobble – with other numbers across the board seeing him take fewer touches in any given outing, while also getting fewer shots away, which inevitably leads to him working opposition goalkeepers less.

Is he still a €100m asset?

Torino like to think so, with club president Urbano Cairo having told Radio Rai: “It’s the market that dictates the prices. If [Philippe] Coutinho is sold for €160m then perhaps, if Belotti goes back to doing what he usually does, [his release clause] will be low.”

Andrea Belotti Urbano Cairo release clause low

That may be wishful thinking, or a smart PR exercise from a club aware that their most valuable asset is not pulling up the trees he once was – he certainly is nowhere near the Coutinho bracket at present.

Belotti himself has said of his valuation: "I never stopped to think about the weight of that €100m tag, because I always thought I should prove my worth on the pitch and those performances would ultimately set my value. In today's world you hear about excessive transfer fees. Clubs pay €70m-€80m or even €100m for a single player.”

He is right, they do, but will they pay that for him?

Such a price tag would make him more expensive than Lukaku at United and Alvaro Morata at Chelsea. So would they – as proven performers with English top-flight experience under their belt - have to step aside to make way for an untested acquisition, or would he become the most expensive bench-warmer in history?

Article continues below

Neither Jose Mourinho nor Antonio Conte would appear to have an obvious role for him at his current asking price.

It has been suggested by Italian publication Corriere dello Sport that fitness issues and Torino’s reluctance to open contract extension talks initially talked up for the new year mean that Belotti could be made available for as little as £22m.

For that fee, ‘The Rooster’ becomes considerably more appealing, but the signing of any cheque with a nine-figure sum on it must surely require the subject of such an outlay to have offered more than one season of wonder, doesn’t it?