Southampton striker Graziano Pelle would've kissed goodbye to a career in professional football had it not been for the influence of Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal, according to the newly-capped Italy international's father, Roberto.
Quoted in an interview with Italian publication La Gazzetta dello Sport, the 29-year-old talisman's dad spoke glowingly about the Red Devils boss, intimating that he altered his son's career for the better by taking him to the Eredivisie.
Van Gaal took a chance on the former Lecce star during his time in charge of AZ Alkmaar, bringing a journeyman marksman that had taken in loan spells at Catania, Crotone and Cesena to the AFAS Stadion in 2007.
Pelle scored 14 goals in 78 appearances over the next four seasons before returning to his homeland when he signed for Parma in 2011. After falling out of first-team favour there he was sent out on loan again - first to Sampdoria and then back to Holland with Feyenoord - and it was at De Kuip where the striker hit a rich vein of form.
Graziano Pelle's father pays tribute to Louis van Gaal
The Saints star scored 50 goals in 57 appearances between 2012 and 2014, prompting his big-money move to St Mary's in the summer, where he'll eventually meet a familiar face in Van Gaal when Southampton take on Manchester United in the Premier League.
According to father Roberto, Pelle junior has a lot to thank the Old Trafford chief for now that he's realising his ultimate dream, and also paid tribute to the Italian's current manager Ronald Koeman, who got the best out of the player in Holland before bringing him to England following his switch their in July.
"If he [Van Gaal] had not met the Dutch guru, as well as Koeman, maybe now my son would be a carpenter or the representative of a coffee company with me in the van," he said.
Pelle has made a promising start to his Southampton career, scoring four goals in his first seven Premier League appearances. He was rewarded for his impressive form with a first call-up to the senior Azzurri squad, and marked his debut with a goal in Italy's 1-0 Euro 2016 qualifying victory over Malta on Monday night.
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