Thursday January 5 2017
Torino must back Belotti

The Granata only have one reliable centre-forward and must provide Andrea Belotti with support, writes Nick Valerio.

For Torino, the winter transfer window presents an opportunity to build on a campaign which started so brightly, but has stuttered of late.

Sinisa Mihajlovic’s men have lost three of their last four fixtures and this collection of poor performances has resulted in an immediate slide down the table, such is the fierce competition in the league.

Yet, Toro remain in the hunt for a European place and have talisman Andrea Belotti largely to thank for this. The Italy international has shouldered the goal-scoring burden this term and, while his tally is priceless, has created a quandary for Mihajlovic.

'Il Gallo' has started 15 of the first 18 domestic fixtures this year and, while all good strikers insist on playing every minute physically possible, there will most certainly be a period during the season when the forward needs to be rested.

Torino must also be mindful of injury, and any spell on the sidelines would see the team struggle, such is the over-reliance on Belotti.

Currently, his most likely replacement is journeyman Maxi Lopez, followed by young prospects Lucas Boye and Josef Martinez. To put in to context, the three reserves have one goal between them all season, in comparison to Belotti’s haul of 13, and the striking department is an area the Serbian tactician must look to strengthen.

Competition is healthy, and wouldn’t harm Belotti. In fact, he would benefit from another body in attack and this would raise his current level even more.

Belotti has quite rightly earned the plaudits and the spotlight, and any incoming forward will be aware that they would be playing second fiddle, so this potential stumbling block is something Toro will be wary of.

The first signing of the window is Roma wide man Juan Manuel Iturbe on loan with an option to buy. Iturbe will hope the move can be a platform to rejuvenate a stalling career, and if Mihajlovic’s man-management can instill some confidence, this move could be inspiring for both club and player.

Simone Zaza, currently in limbo following a dismal loan spell at West Ham United, would prove a shrewd loan, but the likelihood of Juventus helping their cross-town rivals is slim.

Elsewhere, a bid for Sampdoria’s Luis Muriel could be resurrected. The Colombian was the subject of summer interest from Torino and is a known admirer of his former Coach. Of course, there are known difficulties in signing during the mid-season window, but if the player expresses a desire to move, coupled with a modest €10m valuation, Toro should be in a reasonable position to secure the forward’s services.

Muriel, who has six strikes to his name this season, relies on the confidence of his Coach and Mihajlovic is credited with getting the best out of the player during their time together at Sampdoria.

If a move were to materialise, Muriel would be able to both deputise and partner Belotti in a two-pronged attack.

The former Udinese striker has performed well this campaign and while he is Sampdoria’s first choice striker, realistically, the Blucerchiati’s goal for the season is to consolidate themselves in mid-table. It may now be time to reunite with his old boss in the quest for European football.

The battle for places in the table is unforgiving and the margins are fine, but if Toro can replicate the success and impact of summer loanee Joe Hart, this will act as a springboard for next year and beyond. 

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