The more Andrea Belotti scores, the more talk linking him with a move away from Torino continues.
His eight-minute hat-trick against Palermo will do nothing to stop that talk.
And Chelsea are believed to be at the top of the queue for the striker, who now has 22 league goals this season and sits top of the Serie A goalscoring charts.
According to TuttoMercatoWeb, he is a Chelsea transfer target and the Blues have had scouts watching him this season, but he won’t come cheap.
Andrea Belotti has become the first player to score 20 goals in Serie A this season. ? pic.twitter.com/SfU8ATjTUG
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) March 5, 2017
Can Chelsea afford him?
Speaking after Belotti’s sensational performance on Sunday afternoon, Torino president Urbano Cairo put a ridiculously high fee on the striker’s head.
“If I had to insert a figure in his contract right now I would go for €150million (£130million).
“He scored three crazy goals, one even better than the other.
“We will have to wait and see whether a team is willing to pay €100million (£86million). I hope not because I want to keep him here. We are just enjoying him and his goals for now.”
Torino have played a blinder with Belotti-took a risk paying €7.5m, but potential realised,4 years on contract,€100m (£86m) release clause ?
— Adam Summerton (@adamsummerton) March 5, 2017
The Italian’s current deal has a €100million buyout clause, as Cairo alluded to in the above quotes.
He signed a new deal in December and that seemed like it was about maximising his value.
It seems an awful lot of money for a 23-year-old with only a handful of international caps and no European experience.
But Belotti isn’t just any player. He’s extremely talented.
Only two players in Europe's top 5 leagues have 5+ goals with their head, left and right foot.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang ?
Andrea Belotti ? pic.twitter.com/P0cgikA5bT
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) March 5, 2017
So can Chelsea afford him?
Of course they can. The Blues are one of the richest clubs around, and that’s only been boosted by the sale of Oscar to China and the Nike shirt manufacturing deal.
If he does join, they would undoubtedly be able to increase his wages, so convincing him to move, along with guaranteed Champions League football should help to convince the Italian to move to Stamford Bridge.
Belotti or Griezmann?
If you’re looking for someone else who is available for €100million, the first person that comes to mind is Antoine Griezmann.
The Atleti star has the same buyout clause as Belotti, and is someone who at 25, has two more considerably more experience that the Italian, with 39 international caps and around 250 top flight appearances in Spain.
If Chelsea went for either of them, you would expect them to fulfil the current role Diego Costa is playing in, at the head of the 3-4-3 formation.
They can both play at the head of three up front, but Griezmann is also capable of playing on the wing, while Belotti is more of an out and out striker, and has a much better goal scoring record in the league this season – he has 22 compared to Griezmann’s 12.
That works out at an average of 0.95 goals per 90 minutes, while Griezmann has a record of 0.51 goals so far this season.
And Belotti has more shots per in the league this season per 90 minutes than Griezmann too.
The Italian averages 3.46 shots compared to Griezmann’s 2.79.
While the Frenchman has a better assists per 90 minutes rate than Belotti – 0.25 to 0.13 – it is actually the Torino man who creates more chances for his team-mates.
Per 90 minutes, Belotti creates 1.77 chances compared to Griezmann’s 1.6.
And with this Chelsea team being hugely efficient at the moment – they tend to take their chances when they get them, because of the trust Antonio Conte has shown them.
The Blues are also a counter-attacking team, being lightning quick on the break – so Belotti’s rate of 53.19 per cent success in take ons, compared to Griezmann’s 48.72 per cent is also a bonus.
The Atlético Madrid man does complete more passes though, 37.11 per 90 minutes, compared to 20.98, as well as having a better pass completion rate – 78 per cent compared to 76 per cent.
A gamble worth taking?
Signing Belotti for €100million would undoubtedly be a gamble.
It’s a gamble signing anyone for that sort of money, let alone a player who has no experience of the Champions League, or even the Europa League.
The 23-year-old is likely to leave Torino if they do not qualify for European football this season.
After Torino drew with Milan this season, he came out and said: “My future is uncertain and qualifying for the Europa League could be a decider with regards to my permanence here.”
With Torino currently ninth in Serie A, Il Gallo could well be on the move.
And that could be a benefit to Chelsea.
If he does tell Torino he wants to leave, they would have nowhere near as much strength in the transfer market in regards to selling him, as they would if he hadn’t made his intentions clear.
But he would still come at a premium – it’s not every day you get someone who moves around the pitch tormenting Serie A’s notoriously well-drilled defences as well as he did.
He is probably a not particularly Italian striker – he is tall and strong, yet deceptively quick and can choose to bully a defender or beat him for pace, depending on the situation.
You would think whatever happens depends on Costa and his future at Chelsea though.
If he stays, which is by no means certain but looks more likely than it did two months ago, you would be surprised if he wasn’t first choice at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea would want another striker – Michy Batshuayi is clearly not fancied by Antonio Conte – but there is no way the Blues would splash out on what would nearly be a world-record transfer for them not to start every game.
So unless Conte decides to go with two up front – and remember he set Italy up with a 3-1-4-2 formation at Euro 2016 – it would be a surprise if Belotti does end up in a Chelsea shirt if Costa is still at the club.