We are nearing the end of the season, which, of course, means nearing the start of transfer rumour hell. Early signs suggest Manchester United will be sniffing around a striker in the summer, which makes sense after Zlatan Ibrahimović was sidelined indefinitely with a knee injury. Monaco’s Kylian Mbappé or Juventus’ Paulo Dybala are perhaps the most exciting names linked with a move to Old Trafford; Torino’s Andrea Belotti may be slightly more realistic. But how realistic?
Yes, it will happen
The fact is that Belotti will be on the move in the very near future. Unlike Monaco or Juve, whose competitiveness in the Champions League should be enough to swing their starlets into staying a little longer, Torino remain very much a Serie A midtable makeweight. Despite a strong squad, which includes England's No. 1 Joe Hart, and one-time Manchester United attacker Adem Ljajić, they’re still only ninth in the Italian top flight, and don’t have the financial power to hold out indefinitely. So, we can be fairly certain that Belotti will be on the move. And United, as one of the biggest clubs in the world — and with some of the deepest pockets — will be in the running if they so wish.
Is Belotti good enough? This season’s statistics certainly suggest so. He’s so far netted 25 goals in 31 league appearances — a fact only made more impressive by Torino’s very average league position. He should also have no problem adapting to the physicality of the English game: he stands at just shy of six feet tall, and his physicality is exemplified in that as of a couple of months ago, he’d scored more headed goals than anyone else in Europe’s top five leagues. His dogged determination is evident whenever he plays, and it’s not uncommon to see defenders being bounced to the ground as he surges towards goal. He’s a true attacking all-rounder, and the kind of forward we could see thriving under José Mourinho.
In short, if United don’t snap him up, it seems one of our European competitors will.
No, it won’t
As with every signing, there remain concerns. This is the first season in which Belotti has scored more than 12 goals, and though everyone’s got to start somewhere, there will remain nagging doubts that his current run is unsustainable. There have been a few players to emerge from Serie A with high expectations, and there’s always the risk he’ll prove more a Ciro Immobile than a Gianluca Vialli.
There are other question marks over Belotti’s record, including whether the current weakness of the Italian top flight offers only a distorted image of his abilities. In recent years, United’s most successful attacking signings have arrived with bags of experience — see Robin van Persie or Ibrahimović himself — and it could be that Mourinho doesn’t fancy this gamble.
There's also the fact that the transfer fees being quoted are huge, with the Mail claiming that United would be willing to part with £64 million to sign the Italian . The same article throws a second spanner in the works: Chelsea boss Antonio Conte is apparently a keen admirer of Belotti, who is ‘thought to prefer the idea of a move to London.’ Even if United are ready and willing to stump up the cash, there’s no guarantee that the player would be equally enthusiastic.
What we think
We think Belotti is a very good player indeed, and United must surely be monitoring the situation closely. Belotti looks very much like one of Europe’s top young attacking talents, and could — in an ideal scenario — offer top-level performances for the next decade. With that considered, £64 million doesn’t look such a massive sum. Whether or not it’ll actually happen? We’ll have to wait and see.