Under the floodlights of the Vazgen Sargsyan Republican Stadium, Roberto Mancini was seething as his Azzurri team made it hard work taking apart 10-man Armenia, but there was a positive. Andrea Belotti’s brace (even if the second goal was eventually awarded as an own goal) saved the day and sent a message to his Coach that in this new look Italy team, he is to be the front man. It sometimes feels like the Granata hitman has been around forever, but at 25 years of age, he is just getting started and he could be critical for both club and country this term.
Belotti has scored eight times so far this season if you include all his goals for Torino in the Europa League and against Armenia. Whilst the heavily critical will point out that his goal against Debrecen, his two against Shakhtyor Soligorsk and his national team goals were against weak opposition, he still managed two with Wolverhampton Wanderers and one against Sassuolo. The point is, he is up and running this campaign and promises to continue his impressive record.
Torino are a team on the up. They are also incredibly likeable. Whilst they provoke an image of yester-year and a touch of class, they are also a force to be reckoned with. This season they have overcome Sassuolo and Atalanta, not easy opposition to beat, and are the only side with Inter and Juventus to have a 100 per cent record.
Walter Mazzarri has put together a fiercely competitive team and without many major summer buys, they know each other well. Italy Under-21 international centre-back Kevin Bonifazi was an important acquisition, returning from SPAL, whilst the €3m loan deal for Simone Verdi with €20m obligation to buy was the biggest and one of the most astute pieces of business in the whole window.
Verdi in particular is yet another supply route for Belotti and could allow ‘The Rooster’ a chance to add to his underrated record. In Serie A alone, the Granata front man has never let his team down for goals. In 2015-16 he netted 12 with four assists, then an incredible 26 while setting up seven in 2016/17. He got 10 in 2017-18 and another 15 last term. These statistics are not quoted enough, this is a man who guarantees you 10 goals or more one of Europe’s elite divisions.
This season, with Toro looking even stronger than last year, it looks like he could once again have an outstanding campaign. Admittedly, the Europa League defeat to Wolverhampton Wanderers was a disappointment, but may aid them in the long run as the lack fixture congestion won’t take too much toll on the squad.
The start the 25-year-old has made to the season, despite the calibre of the opposition and the strength of his team, could see the striker looking to break the 20-goal mark again and firmly becoming the darling of the Granata.
It is hard not to like ‘Il Gallo’. The Torino Captain is settled off the field as well as on it. When being made Captain, he customized an arm band to have a picture of his then fiancée Giorgia and his Jack Russell, Angi. They had met in Palermo and she has been with him on his journey.
His level-headedness and his motivation can never be questioned, he admits that he isn’t as talented as some of the best in Serie A but like his close friend, Ciro Immobile, he works hard for his success. His tattoo that states, ‘Limits, like fears, are often illusions’ (Michael Jordan) certainly embodies his mentality.
As Roberto Mancini gave a huge sigh of relief after the game against Armenia, he could look at Belotti and had food for thought. He would do well to consider Belotti as Italy’s number one striker. “He is an example because God didn’t bless him with huge talent but with greater values like generosity, enthusiasm and passion,” Arrigo Sacchi had said. These values should embody what the new Italy look like, but it’s also easy to disagree with Sacchi. After all, did he see the overhead kicks against Sassuolo?