Torino’s record-breaking Rooster continues to crow

Conor Clancy reports on one of Serie A’s most prolific goal scorers.

With his three goals on a recent Sunday afternoon, Torino striker Andrea Belotti scored the fastest hat-trick in Serie A since 2000.

Playing against Palermo, one of the 23-year-old Italian’s former clubs, Belotti bagged his three goals in just seven minutes and 15 seconds, which is the fastest Serie A hat-trick since Andriy Shevchenko’s treble for AC Milan against Perugia at the beginning of the millennium.

Toro had found themselves a goal behind against the Sicilians, with Andrea Rispoli giving the visitors the lead in the first half. Belotti, however, did not need long to turn the game on its head in the second, despite leaving it until the 73rd minute to find the net for the first time on the day.

The talented Bergamo native has been heavily linked with a big-money move away from the Serie A side this season, with Premier League giants Arsenal and Chelsea both touted by many sources as potential suitors of Belotti.

It is likely that any interested party will need to be willing to spend a sizeable sum to lure the man nicknamed “Il Gallo” – the Rooster – away from Turin, with club president Urbano Cairo inserting a special €100 million release clause in the forward’s contract earlier in the 2016-17 campaign.

The clause is specifically aimed at overseas’ clubs, with no such release fee hanging over a bid should it come from a fellow Italian side.

“If he continues like this, the president will have to increase the €100 million release clause, because it’s starting to look like a bargain”

Speaking after the victory over Palermo, Cairo confessed he would place a higher price on Belotti’s head if he had the chance to renegotiate the player’s contract.

“We set Belotti’s clause and it’s true that we would be forced to sell him abroad for that sum [€100 million] if he agreed to the move,” said Cairo, speaking to Sky Sport Italia. “However, in Italy I still have the right to refuse all offers, or the player could decide not to leave even if there are offers above €100 million.

“I don’t think we can raise the clause now, as we only just signed the contract recently. Of course, if I was negotiating it today, it should be €150 million. The idea of the clause came to me after he scored against Roma in our home game earlier this season. At €100 million, you sell players like Paul Pogba, Gonzalo Higuain and Gareth Bale.

“I hope nobody comes in with that money, because I would happily keep Belotti for all the time he wants to stay at Torino. As long as he is here, the Granata fans and I will continue to enjoy watching him play. He really is an exceptional hitman and today you saw the instinct he possesses to make sure he is in the right place at the right time.”

The interest from England in Il Gallo is more than just a rumour, with Torino’s sporting director Gianluca Petrachi confirming in January that the club had turned down a bid, believed to be from Arsenal, for their prized asset.

“Yes, we received the offer, but it does not reflect the value of the player,” Petrachi replied when asked about interest from other clubs. “Anyway, he is going nowhere for now. We want to enjoy him; then we’ll see what happens.”

Following his most recent performance, Belotti’s tally for the 2016-17 Serie A stands at 25 goals, leaving him in pole position to take the “Capocannoniere’” – Italy’s top goal scorer – crown.

Torino coach, Sinisa Mihajlovic, also spoke after the game and like his club president, the Serbian took the opportunity to praise his number nine.

“It was an extraordinary performance and he fought so hard, the way he always does,” Mihajlovic told Sky Sport Italia. “He is the capocannoniere now, but he must not rest on his laurels, because he can become even better. For a start, he missed three penalties this season.

“There are few finishers out there like him. If he continues like this, the president will have to increase the €100 million release clause, because it’s starting to look like a bargain.

“Belotti can become a top player, as he’s got everything it takes to improve further and is still so young as well. He is the complete striker, because he has both technique and an excellent work-rate. He scores with his head, his left foot, his right and he never gives up.”

As impressive as his hat-trick on that recent Sunday was, it is not the first, nor is it likely to be the last record that the exciting forward will set this season.

Of all the players across Europe’s top five leagues – England, Spain, Germany, France and Italy – only Belotti has scored at least five left-footed, five right-footed, and five headed goals.

As recently as a few weeks ago, the forward became Torino’s second-youngest player to reach 20 goals for the club, behind Onesto Silano. Belotti also became the first Toro player to surpass 22 Serie A goals in a single season in 67 years. The last player to do so for the Granata was Santos, in 1950.

Belotti has six more matches this season to add to his tally, which could mean that he will for long have the distinction of being Toro’s highest-ever scorer in a single season.

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