A year is a long time in football. The superstars of 12 months ago can easily find themselves on the scrapheap, such is the chew them up and spit them out nature of the game. If anyone in Serie A knows how quickly your stock can rise and fall right now, it is probably Andrea Belotti.
Last summer, Torino seemed likely to accept a big money offer - most likely from the Premier League - for one of the few genuinely appetising prospects the Italian game had to offer. His physical style and never-say-die attitude endeared him to both the Granata support and a more global audience. Most of the usual reservations about translatable skills from the world of Calcio seemed to be unnecessary with him. Here was a lion-hearted hitman who would bang in the goals wherever he went.
Except, of course, the move never happened.
Suddenly, the bulldozer seemed to stall as injury turned him from a star for club and country to a much more sporadic scorer. He cut a forlorn figure - like most of his Azzurri teammates - in their desperate and doomed efforts to qualify for the World Cup in Russia.
Even on league duty with Toro, he seemed to have lost his mojo. His traditional rooster celebration became an increasingly rare sight. For most other 24-year-old strikers playing outside Italy’s biggest sides a return of 10 league goals would be eminently respectable but when you struck 26 the season before it starts to look a little bit paltry.
Those horrible words - one season wonder - have started to be bandied about but that all seems a little bit hasty. Belotti’s style was always one that relied on being in top physical shape and he was quite clearly rarely in that kind of condition last season. It would surely be unfair to judge him too harshly and also, with most of his career still ahead of him, a little foolish to do so.
Indeed, there should really be clubs looking at him as an intriguing “buy low” prospect now that his stock has sunk. If rumours are to be believed Napoli are keen to sign him this summer, and that could prove a shrewd move by the Partenopei.
Even though he may never scale the heights he once did, he could still be a highly productive striker at a very high level. A reduced price tag might make him more attractive to the astute purchaser rather than the crazy figures being thrown about not so long ago.
The truth about Belotti is probably that he was not the superhero he appeared for a glorious spell last year but neither is he the no-hoper some have been keen to dismiss him as. We like our judgements snappy nowadays but there is still plenty of time for him to justify the hype or, at the very least, carve out a good career.
Early pre-season signs have been good and that can only be to the player and Torino’s benefit. He himself has stressed that the most important thing for him is to play regularly rather than be a bench-warmer at some bigger club where they often snap up players in order to avoid letting them go to their rivals. That’s no longer as much of a concern at Napoli, now Maurizio Sarri and his lack of rotation have departed for Chelsea.
Can he shine again? Perhaps not to the impressive levels he once achieved but he still surely has the potential to drag himself back up those Serie A goalscoring charts or sparkle in some other league. Those who like their verdicts immediate may have dismissed him already, but there is surely still life in the old rooster yet.
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