Torino’s record-breaking Rooster continues to crow
Andrea Belotti, who leads Serie A’s goalscoring charts with 22 goals in 24 games this season, is well on his way to becoming Italy’s next great No.9
With his three goals on Sunday afternoon, Torino striker Andrea Belotti scored the fastest hat-trick in Serie A since 2000.
Playing against Palermo, one of the 23-year-old Italian’s former clubs, Belotti bagged his three goals in just seven minutes and fifteen seconds, which is the fastest Serie A hat-trick since Andriy Shevchenko’s treble for AC Milan against Perugia at the beginning of the millennium.
Toro had found themselves a goal behind against the Sicilians, with Andrea Rispoli giving the visitors the lead in the first half. Belotti, however, didn’t need long to turn the game on its head in the second, despite leaving it until the 73rd minute to find the net for the first time on the day.
The talented Bergamo native has been heavily linked with a big-money move away from the Serie A side this season, with Premier League giants Arsenal and Chelsea both touted by many sources as potential suitors of Belotti.
It is likely that any interested party will need to be willing to spend a sizeable sum to lure Il Gallo away from Turin, with club president Urbano Cairo inserting a special €100 million release clause in the forward’s contract earlier in the 2016-17 campaign.
The clause is specifically aimed at overseas clubs, with no such release fee hanging over a bid should it come from a fellow Italian side.
Speaking after Sunday’s victory over Palermo, Cairo confessed he would place a higher price on Belotti’s head if he had the chance to renegotiate the player’s contract.
“We set Belotti’s clause and it’s true that we would be forced to sell him abroad for that sum [€100 million] if he agreed to the move,” said Cairo, speaking to Sky Sport Italia. “However, in Italy I still have the right to refuse all offers, or the player could decide not to leave even if there are offers above €100 million.
“I don’t think we can raise the clause now, as we only just signed the contract recently. Of course, if I was negotiating it today, it should be €150 million.
“The idea of the clause came to me after he scored against Roma in our home game earlier this season. At €100 million you sell players like Paul Pogba, Gonzalo Higuain and Gareth Bale.
“I hope nobody comes in with that money, because I would happily keep Belotti for all the time he wants to stay at Torino. As long as he is here, the Granata fans and I will continue to enjoy watching him play.
“He really is an exceptional hitman and today you saw the instinct he possesses to make sure he is in the right place at the right time.”
The interest from England in Il Gallo is more than just a rumour, with Torino’s sporting director Gianluca Petrachi confirming in January that the club had turned down a bid from Arsenal for their prized asset.
“Yes, we received the offer, but it does not reflect the value of the player,” Petrachi replied when asked about interest from other clubs. “Anyway, he is going nowhere for now. We want to enjoy him, then we’ll see what happens.”
Following his most recent performance, Belotti’s tally for the 2016-17 Serie A stands at 22 goals, leaving him in pole position to take the Capocannoniere crown.
Torino coach, Sinisa Mihajlovic, also spoke after the game and like his club president, the Serbian took the opportunity to praise his No.9.
“It was an extraordinary performance and he fought so hard, the way he always does,” Mihajlovic told Sky Sport Italia. “He is the capocannoniere now, but he must not rest on his laurels, because he can become even better. For a start, he missed three penalties this season.
“There are few finishers out there like him. If he continues like this, the president will have to increase the €100 million release clause, because it’s starting to look like a bargain.
“Belotti can become a top player, as he’s got everything it takes to improve further and is still so young as well. He is the complete striker, because he has both technique and an excellent work-rate. He scores with his head, his left foot, his right foot, and he never gives up.”
Roma’s Bosnian forward Edin Dzeko is the nearest competitor, with 19 goals to his name, while the next highest scoring Italian, Ciro Immobile, is eight strikes behind on 14 for the season.
Immobile, a former teammate of Belotti’s at Torino, and his current striker partner in the Italian national team, is a previous Capocannoniere winner, having topped the charts during the 2013-14 season, when he scored 22 times, also at the Turin side.
As impressive as his hat-trick on Sunday was, it is not the first, nor is it likely to be the last record that the exciting forward will set this season.
Of all the players across Europe’s top five leagues – England, Spain, Germany, France and Italy – only Belotti has scored at least five left-footed, five right-footed, and five headed goals.
As recently as last week, the forward became Torino second youngest player to reach 30 goals for the club, behind Onesto Silano.
One more goal will see Belotti become the first Toro player to surpass 22 Serie A goals in a single season in 67 years. The last player to do so for the Granata was Santos, in 1950.
Belotti has 11 more matches this season to add to his tally, which, at his current scoring rate of just under one goal per game, looks as though it will be more than enough time to make him Toro’s highest ever scorer in a single top flight season.