There was a time when simply seeing the word 'Belotti', 'transfer' and 'Roma' in the same sentence would have sent most of us into a state of Nirvana; just absolute and pure bliss. Two years ago, Torino sensation Andrea Belotti was more myth than man—sure, they called him the rooster, but he might as well have been Bigfoot. Just imagine this conversation:
"You're serious? Somewhere in Italy there's a 23-year-old kid who can pass, move, shoot, score 26 goals and he's not a home wrecker with a Kim Kardashian wannabe for a wife/agent? Get the hell outta here, that doesn't exist."
It was precisely that state of disbelief that led Torino to slap a €100 million release clause on Belotti's contract, putting him in Paul Pogba and Gareth Bale territory, yet it was completely warranted. To that point, Belotti's career had been a slow and steady burn, progressing from six goals with Palermo during 2014-2015 to a dozen the following season, his first with Torino. But what came next was truly remarkable.
In 35 appearances for the Toros during the 2016-2017 season, Belotti transformed himself from an intriguing prospect to a bold and brash world-class striker, the kind of kid with the audacity to pull this off. But underneath that flash was a healthy dose of substance. Belotti amassed 130 shots that season, converting 26% of those into goals, while exceeding his expected goals and assist numbers. Belotti scored 11 goals with his right foot, 5 with his left and 10 with his head. He scored 17 in the run of play, 3 from the corner, 4 from set pieces and 2 from the penalty spot. In a word, he was a striker's striker.
Since then...yeah, not so much.
Belotti struggled mightily the following season, mustering only 10 goals during the 2017-2018 season. Given that he outperformed his expected goal total by over five during his break out season, some regression was expected, but I'm not sure anyone could have predicted such a precipitous fall; his numbers were down across the board—goals, assists, passing, playmaking. It was ugly.
However, with seven goals through 19 matches this term, Belotti seems to have at least recovered his pre-breakout form. If the second half of the season follows suit, Belotti figures to wrap up the season with 12 to 15 goals and maybe half a dozen assists; not bad, but certainly not worth €100 million.
But what about €50 million? Would you gamble on Belotti, who is still just 25-years-old, falling somewhere in between his breakout and his baseline seasons?
If you believe the Corriere dello Sport (via RomaNews), Monchi is entertaining that very thought, weighing a €50 million move for Belotti this summer, seeing him as a perfect replacement for the rapidly aging Edin Dzeko, who has suffered a similar decline since the 2016-2017 season when he bested Belotti for the capocannoniere.
I hate the phrase "in a vacuum” but if we removed all context from this prospective transfer, I'd be completely on board. Belotti may not be as elite as that sterling season suggested, but he has all the attributes one craves in a classic striker, and surrounding him with the likes of Lorenzo Pellegrini and (hopefully) Cengiz Ünder might produce a return to those halcyon days of 2017.
But, and I hate to break it to you, this rumor is complete bullshit, so let's debunk it bullet point style, shall we?
- There is no way in hell that Roma would (or could) pony up €50 million for any player, let alone one with such an erratic recent history. Full stop. You don't even have to read the rest of the list; this is all that matters.
- But...speaking of money, Roma has €42 million wrapped up in another streaky and disappointing striker named Patrik Schick, how can they possibly accommodate both?
- Edin Dzeko, and his €4.5 million salary, remains under contract through 2020. Assuming they have to negotiate a new deal with Belotti upon signing him (he makes €1.8 million currently, so let's assume he gets a Schick-level deal, €2.5 million), Roma would have nearly €10 million tied up in three strikers, only one of whom will start each match. Even for one season, Roma can't float those figures.
- To that point, last spring Belotti admitted he'd only leave for a big club if he has an opportunity to start; he does not want to be a bench player.
- None of this...none of it...matters if Roma miss the Champions League next season. If they fall below fourth place, we won't be talking about spending €50 million—they'll need to raise at least that just to maintain their status quo.
To pull this off, Roma would have to find takers for Dzeko (a tough task given his age and declining performance) and Schick, who would almost certainly be sold at a loss, while also probably selling Ünder to satisfy any FFP ramifications that might occur should they miss the Champions League next season. And even if all that came home to roost (Belotti is the rooster after all), would throwing €50 million at one player really be the best use of limited funds?
Andrea Belotti is certainly young enough and talented enough to establish himself as one of the league's best strikers, and the thought of him recapturing the spirit of 2017 alongside several of Italy's best and brightest in Roma is incredibly intriguing, but even by transfer rumor standards, this one is flimsy.