Keeping Andrea Belotti will not be enough for Europe, as the Granata must patch up their defence, writes Vilizar Yakimov
An impeccable record of 26 Serie A goals last term saw Andrea Belotti establishing himself as one of the deadliest and most sought-after strikers in Europe. The 23-year-old was not just Torino’s top scorer - he was the focal point of their gameplay, as Sinisa Mihajlovic built his whole team around the undisputed attacking talents of Il Gallo, Iago Falque and Adem Ljajic. Unfortunately for the Granata, the Serbian’s ultra-attacking approach backfired, as the team finished in the disappointing ninth place and had the worst defence in the top 10 with 66 goals conceded.
With such an abysmal defensive record, there is no doubt that every Toro fan is hoping that Il Gallo’s goals will be boosting the club’s attack for at least another year. Despite some serious interest by Milan and Chelsea, President Urbano Cairo is determined not to lose his most valuable asset. Even if Cairo’s efforts prevail and the powerful forward remains, will he be able to carry Torino’s horrible defence to a European finish? Most likely not.
Cairo and Mihajlovic should be well aware of that and it seems they’ve learned their lesson from last year by signing an experienced Italian goalkeeper in Salvatore Sirigu. The ex-Palermo and Paris Saint-Germain man is expected to be a key figure for Toro, as he should add stability and improve the communication in a backline that was hammered during the horrible Joe Hart experiment last term.
Torino were also able to add another impressive defensive asset to their squad, as they beat powerhouses like Atletico Madrid and arch rivals Juventus for the capture of the 20-year-old centre back Lyanco. The highly-rated Brazilian arrived from Sao Paolo for €7m, which is a significant part of the club’s budget. However, considering Lyanco’s potential and how expensive talented defenders are these days, the youngster might prove to be a real bargain.
Another new arrival is former Napoli target Alex Berenguer, who should provide the cover and quality on the wings that last year’s loanee Juan Iturbe failed to add. The 22-year-old Spaniard arrived from Osasuna and, similarly to Lyanco, can prove to be much more valuable than the €5.5m Toro paid for his services.
Considering the new arrivals and the overall quality of the squad, Torino seem in a pretty good situation for the upcoming season, regardless of the outcome of Belotti’s saga. If the Italian is sold, the Granata would have enough financial power to find decent attacking replacements, even though they probably won’t be able to match his goal-scoring record. If Il Gallo remains, he guarantees goals, so keeping him as well as adding youth and talent to an already quality group seems like a step in the right direction.
Either way, Torino must prove that they are not a one-man team, as the key to improvement lies in finding the right balance, which will be Miha’s main challenge for the upcoming season.
If Mihajlovic manages to find the proper defensive balance, even a Belotti-less Torino would have enough quality to challenge for a Europa League place. Lazio and Fiorentina have already been weakened by some key departures, which significantly improves the Granata’s chances. It’s also worth noting that Serie A will get an extra European spot for the upcoming season, so don’t be too surprised if Toro just manage to sneak into the top six.
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