Liverpool (A) - Saturday 17th August 2014
Former clubs: Leece, Catania (loan), Crotone (loan), Cesena (loan), AZ, Parma, Sampdoria (loan), Feyenoord (loan), Feyenoord
Graziano Pellè was born in Lecce, south-east Italy, on 15th July 1985, and began his footballing career in the youth teams of his nearby U.S. Lecce.
He won the Campionato Primavera, Italy’s main youth league, in 2002/03 and 2003/04, as well as the Coppa Italia Primavera (youth cup) in 2001/02.
Pellè made his professional debut at the age of 18, in a 2-1 home loss to Bologna on 11th January 2004. That would be one of only two appearances he would make in his debut season.
After struggling for game time in the first half of the 2004/05 season, he moved on loan to Serie B side Catania in January, but failed to score in 15 appearances.
FIFA World Youth Championship
Nevertheless, 19-year-old Pellè was named in the Italy squad for the 2005 FIFA World Youth Championship in the Netherlands that summer, where he scored four times as the Azzurri went out in the quarter-finals.
Upon his return to Lecce, Pellè made 11 appearances during the first half of the campaign before heading out on loan into Serie B once again, joining Crotone. It was here that he would score his first professional goals, netting six in 17 appearances.
He would spend the entirety of the 2006/07 season on loan, this time joining Cesena. 11 goals in 39 appearances caught the eye of Italy Under-21 manager Pierluigi Casiraghi, who took him to the 2007 UEFA European Under-21 Football Championship finals.
Heading to Holland
After the tournament, Pellè decided against another spell on loan and left Lecce permanently to sign for Louis van Gaal at Dutch side AZ Alkmaar.
In his first season with AZ, the forward scored four goals in 32 appearances. At the end of the campaign, he was named in Italy’s squad for the 2008 Toulon Tournament.
Pellè would help the Azzurri win the competition, with future Saint Dani Osvaldo scoring the winner against Chile in the final. Along the way, in the semi-finals, they beat a Japan team that included Maya Yoshida and Tadanari Lee in their squad.
Back with AZ, the striker would match his first-season goal tally in the 2008/09 campaign, when he played only 23 times as his club won the Eredivisie title.
Working with Koeman
That summer, van Gaal departed for Bayern Munich and Ronald Koeman was appointed manager.
Pellè scored in the first league game of the season, but was also shown a red card as the campaign started off on a mixed note.
The working relationship between Pellè and Koeman would not be a long one, as the coach was shown the door in early December after a poor start to the campaign, with the striker only finding the net twice in just 16 appearances all season.
Despite coming close to returning to Italy in the summer of 2010, Pellè stayed at AZ for one more season, scoring six goals in 20 appearances, before heading back to his homeland a year later. He netted 16 times in 94 appearances during his four years in the Netherlands.
In July 2011, Pellé – by then having just turned 26 – signed for Serie A side Parma. He would score on his debut, in a Coppa Italia win over Grosseto, but would not find the net again until December.
After only 13 appearances for his new club, he headed out on loan once again, to Serie B promotion-chasers Sampdoria, in January. He would help them to promotion, playing 16 games – four of which were in the play-offs – and scoring four goals.
A second spell with Koeman
In August 2012, Pellè would be reunited with Koeman, who he had spent six months with during his third season at AZ, as he signed for Feyenoord on a season-long loan.
He opened his goalscoring account in his third appearance for the club, hitting a double in a 5-1 win over NEC Nijmegen to kick off a run of 15 goals in 14 games.
On 5th January 2013, Pellè made his move permanent. After a comparatively slow start to the second half of the season, with only two in five games in late January and early February, the Italian quickly found himself back among the goals for the remainder of the campaign.
He ended his first season with Feyenoord with 29 goals from 33 appearances in all competitions as the club finished third behind champions Ajax and second-placed PSV, who pipped Koeman’s men to a UEFA Champions League place on goal difference.
Pellè ended the season second in the Eredivisie’s goalscoring charts, four off Wilfried Bony.
The 2013/14 season started badly for Feyenoord, as they lost their opening four games, although Pellè did net in two of those.
The forward would hit the first hat-trick of his career in Feyenoord’s first win of the campaign, and finished the opening half of the season with 16 goals in 21 games as the side began to battle back from their poor start.
Feyenoord continued to climb the table after Christmas, with Pellè scoring another ten goals as his side finished second in the table to qualify for the Champions League. He again finished second in the top-scorers’ table, six off Alfreð Finnbogason of Heerenveen.
After 55 goals in 66 appearances across his two years with Feyenoord, Pellè headed to England for the first time as he begins his third spell under Koeman’s management.
Life at Saints
The Italian forward hit the ground running, scoring nine goals in his first 12 games. He ended up being Southampton’s top scorer in the 2014/15 campaign, netting 18 goals across 48 appearances in all competitions.
Pellè's club form earned him his first senior international call-up, scoring the winner on his debut in a UEFA EURO 2016 qualifier against Malta. Later in the season, he netted for the Azzurri in a 1-1 draw with an England side that included then-teammates Nathaniel Clyne and Ryan Bertrand.