The news that Southampton had signed Pelle last summer was greeted with mild amusement in some quarters. This was in no way detrimental to the Italian striker Graziano Pelle but more in deference to the legendary Pele, widely acknowledged as the greatest footballer of all time.
As the Premier League season gathers pace, the name Pelle is popping up with ever-increasing frequency in the sports pages. The new Saints striker scored twice in the 8-0 drubbing of Sunderland to take his tally to seven for the season, six of those in the Premier League. He trails on Diego Costa of Chelsea and Sergio Aguero of Man City. He could arguably have been awarded a hat-trick against Sunderland with a goal-bound shot inadvertently bundled into his own net by a defender.
His performance against the Black Cats rounded off a fantastic week for the Italian who had also scored the winner for his national team on his debut against Malta. At 29 years of age, Pelle is receiving recognition of his talents late in his career. He joined Lecce as a teenager and was loaned out to three lower-league sides.
He was then signed by Louis van Gaal at AZ Alkmaar in Holland where he spent four years and resurrected his career. He moved back to Italy for a spell with Parma but again found himself on loan, firstly at Sampdoria and then at Feyenoord where he met his future Southampton coach Ronald Koeman.
The Dutchman found the key to Pelle’s goal scoring talents and he fired in 11 goals in 10 games, convincing Koeman to make the move permanent. He ended the season with 27 goals and was still averaging almost a goal a game when Koeman persuaded him to follow him to Southampton.
Anyone who witnessed his spectacular overhead kick against Queen’s Park Rangers will realise that Pelle is not your average centre-forward. That sensational moment of magic is already being touted as a possible “Goal of the Season”.
Italian TV presenter Donatella Scarnati introduced Pelle as a 39-year-old but the striker was happy to laugh off the mistake. In a week that he has scored twice for his club, once on his debut for his country and been awarded Player of the Month in the Premiership, few things will worry Pelle right now. The headline “Pelle scores for Southampton” is no longer a laughing matter.