Torino FC occupy a strange place in the Serie A stratosphere. As one of the oldest clubs in Italy, they were among the early powerhouses on the peninsula, winning six of their seven titles between 1927 and 1949, a stretch that included an impressive five titles in six years between 1942 and 1949. Throw in three runners up finishes in that same 20 year span, and Torino were a force to be reckoned with in the early and mid 20th century.
Since then...not so much. They won the Scudetto in ‘75-’76 and were runners up the following season, as well as in ‘84-'85, but have struggled (to say the least) to recapture their former glory, enduring relegations in the 1990s, 2000s and early 2010s.
The Toros fortunes would change when they returned to Serie A in 2012, even making a bit of noise on the table thanks to the prodigious talents of Ciro Immobile and Alessio Cerci. But, the sport being the way it is, both Cerci and Immobile were gone by the start of the 2014-2015 season.
While those two players have gone on divergent paths since then, Torino wouldn't have to wait too long before signing their next star—Andrea Belotti, who came from Palermo for a measly €7.5 million in the summer of 2015. After scoring 12 goals in his first season, Belotti EXPLODED the following season, racking up 26 goal and 7 assists during the 2016-2017 season.
But here comes the crazy part. Rather than selling him for €100M + that summer, Torino resisted the urge to cash in and kept Belotti, seeing him as the center piece of their next resurgence.
As Roma fans, we're no strangers to big sales, but you had to be impressed by Torino's resolve; it couldn't have been easy for a club like Torino to resist that kind of cash. But with a paltry 10 goals the following season, they soon had egg on their face. While Belotti has rebounded well-enough over the past 18 months, scoring 24 goals in his past 60 Serie A appearances, he has yet to reach those same lofty heights, while Torino has never risen higher than 7th on the table since Belotti's magical season.
His failure to repeat that performance certainly hasn't kept his name out of the rumor rags, particularly when it comes to Roma, to whom he's been linked several days over the past few years, including just this week. According to Calciomercato, Belotti is likely to leave Torino after this season—whenever that might actually occur—with Napoli and Roma his most likely destinations.
With Napoli signing Andrea Petagna over the winter, and still having Arkadiusz Milik under contract for another year, it seems like Roma are the most logical fit, but should they be?
In addition to his estimated €40 million market value, Belotti may not be the stunning upgrade he appears to be. Dig this...
Using attacking statistics since the beginning of the 2015-2016 season, Dzeko's first in Serie A and Belotti's first with Torino, we see that Dzeko has been superior to Belotti in literally every category, with particularly advantages in xGChain90, Sh90, xG90 and A90. What this means is precisely what we already knew: Dzeko, despite his hulking size and possessing the speed of an overweight yellow lab, is a complete striker, fully immersed into practically every facet of the team's attack.
Here comes the but....if we look at the very top of that radar, goals per 90, we see Belotti's saving grace; goal production. Since the start of the 2015-2016 season, Belotti has scored 72 league goals on 472 shots (38% on target attempts, 15% conversion) while Dzeko has scored 74 league goals on 636 shots (41% on target attempts, 12 % conversion rate). While there is some value in Dzeko's higher shot rate, Belotti edges him out in terms of efficiency, not to mention being eight years younger.
So, in this Dzeko vs. Belotti scenario, there are some trade-offs required. Belotti may be a tad faster, he might have a better goal-scoring celebration, and he might be more efficient in-front of goal, but he's not quite as good as Dzeko in everything that comes before the goal.
The differences aren't stark enough where we should dismiss the notion of Belotti out of hand—particularly not during their 2016-2017 peaks when Dzeko edged out Belotti for the scoring title but Belotti bested him in key passes—but we have to face facts; Edin Dzeko is 34-years-old.
Whether it's Belotti, Milik or someone else entirely, at some point in the next 12 months, Roma have to make a play for a new striker. That player may not offer the same exact package as Dzeko, but would a little more efficiency and a little more athleticism be appealing to Paulo Fonseca?
Despite Dzeko's 12 goals this season, it's a question that will need an answer sooner rather than later.