Mario Balotelli: One of the Premier League's greatest flops?
At just 24 years old, it’s sometimes easy to forget just how young Mario Balotelli is, and what a future he could have in the game. He is clearly a talented player, and he’s shown that in glimpses with Milan and Manchester City, but it’s doubtful that we will ever get to see the great potential that Balotelli possesses – and it all boils down to the classic ‘work rate’ dilemma.
The loose cannon could easily have been at the very top of football, if he had got hold of himself and actually realised the ability he has. I think it’s telling that when I picture him in my brain I can’t put together an image of him breaking into a sprint. It’s like he just wanders around the pitch and hopes the ball will just fly into the top corner if he wants it to, but unfortunately for him, that’s not how it works.
When he signed for Liverpool last summer, there were such high hopes, he was the hailed the replacement for Luis Suarez and Brendan Rodgers was the man to get the best out of him. Fast forward 12 months, the Merseyside club failed to make the Champions League, and Balotelli scored one goal. An absolutely atrocious season for all involved, and the ex-Inter star has torn fans opinions apart – some say give him another chance this season, others can’t wait to see the back of him.
His off the field problems have always kept him in the limelight of the sporting world, whether it be setting off fireworks in his bathroom, driving into a woman’s prison ‘to have a look around’, throwing darts at a youth team player or infamously asking why it is always him. Well, Mario, it’s not a coincidence that all these things magically seem to happen to you. Although having to use the cliche, he simply has to sort his attitude out if he wants to succeed. As he does indeed grow older, the ‘young and inexperienced’ card cannot be played any more. He’s had his lessons dealt to him, and he hasn’t learnt.
It’s telling that the best phases of his career have come under Roberto Mancini, a man he described as like a father in an interview with Oasis star and famous City fan Noel Gallagher. With Mancini finally sick of him after their high profile training ground bust-up, his mentor and stabilising influence was gone, and he was forced to look elsewhere. Brendan Rodgers has yet to show he is capable of controlling such big personalities.
The move to Liverpool may be the one that destroys Balotelli’s career, and there might not be a way back to the top level of football for him. There is something about him that makes you want to like him, though. Whether it be the bad boy attitude or the goalscoring ability that you just know he has in him, everyone wants him to fulfil his potential.
After such a diabolical season, what options actually remain open for the Italian international? The likelihood is that he will dwindle out into obscurity, signing for an Arab side, or maybe even heading over to the MLS. There has been some interest from his homeland, coming in the form of Sampdoria and Lazio in particular. After the form he showed last term, clubs will certainly not be willing to fork out the money Liverpool will be demanding for a permanent move. A loan is definitely a possibility, with Rodgers’ men keen to get him off the wage bill for at least a season.
Whatever does happen, we know that he isn’t in Brendan Rodgers’ plans for this season. After leaving him out of various pre-season squads over the last two months, he clearly isn’t going to be the prominent figure that he was last season. With Daniel Sturridge returning from a long term injury imminently and new signings Danny Ings and Christian Benteke in the frame, who both showed an incredible goalscoring knack for their respective sides last season, Balotelli might even find himself as the fourth choice at Anfield.
It’s been a disaster year for ‘Super Mario’, just the solitary goal to prove for his (lacklustre) efforts and a steep fall down the pecking order on Merseyside, it hasn’t been ideal. It’s a huge disappointment, because we have seen what he can produce, both with past clubs and the national team. If he could have channelled the anger he had inside him to passion on the pitch, we may well have seen a different outcome. The last season will just leave a sour taste in the mouths of football fans worldwide, and in particular the fans who carved out money to watch his woeful performances. He will go down as one of the biggest flops in Premier League history, and it’s a shame. It’s never nice to see someone waste so much potential.
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