As Arsenal have reportedly failed in their bid to sign Andrea Belotti, here is all you need to know about the 23-year-old Italian striker who took Europe by storm last year.
He had a difficult start
Belotti is one of the hottest names nowadays, but he wasn't highly rated in his youth. Atalanta's academy decided against signing him, and he later mostly sat on the bench at the Primavera of the small AlbinoLeffe outfit. Belotti started out as a midfielder, without significant success, and was later moved to the wing but struggled to impress there either.
One of the reasons was that -- born in late December -- Belotti was always the youngest kid in his age group, and that can be extremely significant at the early stages of a career. He needed a coach who would believe in him, and everything changed when Alessio Pala took over at the AlbinoLeffe Primavera. He decided to use Belotti as a centre-forward and gave him unlimited freedom, getting sensational performances in return.
Such was the impact that Belotti was even called into the senior squad toward the end of the 2011-12 season in Serie B, and scored twice in eight matches. That wasn't overly significant for AlbinoLeffe, who were relegated to the third division, but the misfortune actually proved to be blessing in disguise for the young striker. With Pala promoted to first-team coach, Belotti became the undisputed starter, netted 12 times in 30 matches in 2012-13 and attracted interest from bigger clubs.
Shevchenko is his idol
Moving from Northern Italy to Sicily was not easy for the youngster at the age of 19, but signing for Palermo was an offer he simply couldn't refuse, not least because of the coach. As a die-hard Milanista from day one, Belotti was excited that Gennaro Gattuso was interested in his services. The Pink and Blacks had just been relegated to Serie B, and the former AC Milan legend was the new coach under the flamboyant president Maurizio Zamparini.
Predictably, however, Gattuso's spell at Palermo was extremely short, and Belotti found life quite difficult without him. He was mostly on the bench as the team returned to Serie A, and was used as a substitute in 2014-15 as well, which is hardly surprising given the fact that Paulo Dybala had his breakthrough season.
That is why he was especially proud to hear Gattuso say recently: "When I took Andrea to Palermo and said that he reminded me of Andriy Shevchenko, people laughed at me." For Belotti, such comparison is the highest possible plaudit. He grew up admiring the great Ukrainian.
"Sheva has always been my role model," Belotti said in an interview with Corriere Della Sera. "I am still light years behind him, but will try to get closer by working hard."
He's compared to Vialli
Gattuso's view must be respected, but many coaches and teammates who worked with Belotti find more significant similarities to another legend, who had never played for Milan -- Gianluca Vialli. Pala, who knows the striker better than anyone, claims: "He is like the young Vialli at Cremonese. Strong, maybe a bit awkward, but knows how to score in every possible way."
Defender Salvatore Aronica agrees: "Andrea reminds me a lot of Vialli with the way he defends the ball and turns in the area."
Former AlbinoLeffe coach Emiliano Mondonico also likened Belotti to the former Sampdoria, Juventus and Chelsea star after the striker scored a brace in the 3-3 draw at Napoli in September 2014: "He is a hard worker who plays both for himself and for the team -- a rare quality which is not easy to find. He reminds me of Vialli with the quality of his headers."
He scored 28 goals in 2016
And yet, despite the brilliant performance at Napoli that day and a decent scoring record for the Under-21 Italian national team, Belotti didn't prove himself regularly at Palermo. His trademark "rooster" goal celebration, which was initially invented by his childhood friend Juri Gallo whose second name means "rooster" in Italian, was not seen too often.
The move to Torino, who paid €7.5 million for his services, was initially considered disappointing. However, the striker was fortunate that the coach Giampiero Ventura fully understood his potential and showed patience.
Ventura is a brilliant tactician who knows how to get the best out of young strikers. He was the man responsible for helping Ciro Immobile to be crowned Serie A top scorer in 2013-14. Quite remarkably, it was Immobile's return to Torino in January 2016 that helped to kick-start Belotti's career.
After scoring just once in his first five months at the club, Belotti exploded playing as the second striker behind the burly centre-forward, netting 11 goals in the second half of last season. He was even responsible for curtailing Gigi Buffon's record of 973 minutes without conceding a league goal, albeit only by scoring from the penalty spot in the 4-1 derby defeat.
"If the coach doesn't believe in you, you can be benched after two games," Belotti told Corriere Della Sera. "It's a question of mentality. Luckily for me, Ventura believes in young players, and he waited for me to start scoring."
Naturally, he can feel even luckier, now that Ventura took over at the national team from Antonio Conte in the summer. Belotti immediately became vital for Italy, scoring three goals in World Cup qualifying.
At the same time, his club form is better than ever. Sinisa Mihajlovic is an even more attack-minded coach than Ventura, and -- with Immobile leaving for Lazio -- and extremely confident Belotti flourished as the central striker in a 4-3-3 formation. He scored 13 goals in 15 matches, already bettering his own tally in the entire previous season. With 28 goals in all competitions overall, 2016 has been Belotti's best year by a huge distance.
His release clause in insanely high
With his efforts generating a lot of interest, Torino were quick to offer Belotti a new contract until 2021, which includes a €100m release clause. "His clause would be worth that of Gonzalo Higuain", Torino president Urbano Cairo said in November, and it is eventually higher than that of the Argentinian star, who was signed by Juventus from Napoli for €90m.
That's where the problems lies. Belotti is undoubtedly talented, and his potential is remarkable, but he should keep his feet firmly on the ground in order to fulfil it. He also knows only too well how important the right coach is.
Immobile is a very good example of a striker who struggled mightily after leaving for a bigger club. He could have told Belotti everything about his difficult spells at Borussia Dortmund and Sevilla, and only upon returning home did he find his form again. There is no guarantee that Belotti's fate will be different, especially if his next club overpays for his signature.
Patience was important in getting Belotti on track to stardom, and it is still crucial now that his skills have been recognised.