Graziano Pellè has impressed massively since his summer 2014 move to Southampton, and despite a 1,245 minute goal drought last season, the Italian has proved doubters wrong yet again this season, no more so than in the recent 3-1 win away to Chelsea, scoring one and setting up the other two.
Whilst the International break has given Premier League defenders the chance to take a break from Pellè’s superb displays, we take a closer look at the in-form Saints striker.
Where did he start his career?
Pellè began his career at youth level for his hometown club of Lecce, making his Serie A debut at the age of 18. However, after managing just two appearances that season, he was then loaned out for three successive seasons, to fellow Italian sides Catania, Crotone and Cesena. His first big move came when he joined Dutch outfit AZ Alkmaar in July 2007, but his disappointing return of 14 goals in 78 appearances led to him being released in June 2011. He was then signed by Parma just a month later.
So when did his success come?
Despite scoring just one in 12 for Parma after leaving Alkmaar, the forward made a name for himself by scoring 27 goals in his 2012/13 loan spell to Feyenoord, a record that forced the Dutch club to make Pelle’s move permanent. The following season the 6ft4” striker bagged another 23 goals for the Rotterdam outfit, alerting some of Europe’s biggest clubs in the process. But it was Southampton that would get their man, signing him on a three-year deal for £8 million, reuniting the Italian with his former AZ and Feyenoord boss Ronald Koeman.
Is it not a surprise that he only made his full international debut in 2014?
Yes and no, granted the big striker has been prolific in the Dutch Eredivisie as well as the Premier League, but his early spells in Italy will have definitely hindered his chances of an international call-up. He had a very impressive record at Under-20 level, however he failed to score at U-21 level and until recently, has been understandably down the Italian pecking order when it comes to strikers.
With Antonio Cassano, Antonio Di Natale, Mario Balotelli and various other top class strikers at their disposal, the 30-year-old has had to bide his time before getting his chance on the international stage.
Why is he so dangerous?
The forward stands at 1.94m (6ft4”) making him one of the tallest strikers in the Premier League. What stands him apart from being a typical target man though, is his exceptional eye for goal, as well as his evident aerial threat. He is well known for his powerfully accurate finishing and his off the ball work, making him a huge asset for both club and country.
Where does he rank amongst the several high-class strikers that are playing in the Premier League?
It would be unfair to compare him to Sergio Aguero or Alexis Sánchez as they are completely different forwards. The Italian isn’t too dissimilar to Liverpool’s Christian Benteke and Chelsea’s Diego Costa though. Both are seen as dangerous target men for their respective clubs. Pellè’s record of 17 goals in 46 games for Southampton doesn’t reflect the real impact he has had since joining the south coast club, as he has become a key player and one of the first names on the team sheet every week.