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English Premier League

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.

“It’s always me, it’s never you!”

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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English Premier League

Keanan Bennetts has perfect opportunity to impress Mauricio Pochettino this week

The left-sided star has a chance to impress in first-team training during the international break.



Photo: Getty Images

With the international week in full flow, plenty of teams in the Premier League have seen their squads diminished by call-ups to national teams.

Tottenham Hotspur are one such side. Nonetheless, with most of the first-team squad away with their respective nations, work continues at Hotspur Way.

In order for Spurs to have a full complement in training, plenty of young talent needs to be pulled in to the ranks.

Mauricio Pochettino will, therefore,e get a chance to see some of his young players training with regular first-team players such as Fernando Llorente, Erik Lamela and Lucas Moura.

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

One player who will be training with the first-team this week is talented wide-man Keanan Bennetts, according to London Live.

The 19-year-old left-winger has been catching the eye for the club’s youth team in recent weeks, making the news after scoring a fantastic goal for the under-19s against Monaco in the UEFA Youth League last month.

Bennetts has also been attracting interest for his positional dexterity. The wide-man has played at left-back in recent times and it could be that is his future best position.

This week he will be up against some excellent players such as Lamela and Moura, who did not receive selection to the Argentina and Brazil national teams, respectively.

If he can prove himself with this calibre of player, Pochettino will have to take notice.

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

It is coming to a point in his Tottenham career when Bennetts has to make such an impact. The teenager is out of contract at Spurs in the summer and needs to ensure he is kept on for at least one more season.

Tottenham fans who follow the youth teams are certain he is deserving of such a chance. If he can show Pochettino what he is capable of this week, then a new deal will surely be in the pipeline for the talented wide-man.

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English Premier League

Despite improvement, Everton should not rekindle Thomas Vermaelen interest

The Belgian defender has been in better form for Barcelona this season.



Rumours have emerged today suggesting Everton could be back in for Belgian defender Thomas Vermaelen.

Catalan newspaper Sport has reported that the 32-year-old could be offered a new deal by Barcelona, with a team from the Premier League interested in signing him.

Sport Witness has openly hypothesised that Everton could be that team. Whilst there is no confirmation or substantiated report that is the case, the boot certainly fits.

Last summer Everton tried to sign Vermaelen.

As reported by the Liverpool Echo, at the time Barcelona vetoed a loan move to Everton as they felt the defender could be a useful asset.

The Belgian certainly has. After struggling with injuries and form throughout most of his Barcelona tenure the former Arsenal man has enjoyed a good season.

The 32-year-old has been a genuine asset to the Catalans, despite still being used sparingly, and such form has even seen him win back a place in Roberto Martinez’s national selection for Belgium.

If it is Everton interested in Vermaelen it is easy to see why. Centre-back has been a major problem for the club this season.

However, Vermaelen, or a player of his ilk, is not the answer to the Toffees’ woes.

(Photo by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images)

The Belgian is obviously a talented player with plenty of experience, but Everton need to freshen up their back-line.

Ashley Williams and Phil Jagielka’s age has shown in recent months.

The pair have been, at the best, inconsistent for the past 18 months and Everton need fresh young talent in the heart of defence if they are to succeed.

Vermaelen is not only 32 but also immensely injury prone. Everton need reliable figures to plug their leaky defences and the Belgian can simply not be relied upon.

Whilst on paper it seems a good deal, and one Everton could certainly turn to their benefit.

The truth is supporters of the Goodison Park outfit will hope they are not the club reportedly keen on bringing Vermaelen back to the Premier League.

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English Premier League

Have West Ham United found the next Mark Noble in Alfie Lewis?

The 18-year-old put in a fine performance against Dagenham and Redbridge this week.



Photo: Getty Images

West Ham United took on Dagenham and Redbridge in a friendly yesterday, in a match to raise funds for the National League side.

It was no surprise to see West Ham come out victorious. They won 3-1, with Michail Antonio at the double and Jordan Hugill scoring his first goal for the club.

It was, however, a Hammers team depleted by international selection.

With that in mind, David Moyes’ side fielded some of their younger players. Plenty of them caught the eye, but none more so than central midfielder Alfie Lewis.

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

The 18-year-old put in a fine display for 90 minutes which left West Ham fans very excited on social media.

It was an even more special achievement given Lewis spent most of last year on the sidelines with a serious knee injury.

Lewis himself told the official West Ham website after the game: “I’m delighted.

“It was a good experience for me tonight, to play with the likes of Patrice Evra, and Mark Noble in midfield. It was a good challenge and a good test for us as well, and I think I did well.”

He spoke of it being an honour playing alongside Mark Noble, but is he the successor to the throne?

Whilst Noble has had his critics in recent times there is no doubt he has been a long-term hero at West Ham.

Fans of the club have often wondered why Noble has never received England recognition given his consistent form in the Premier League.

(Photo by Pete Norton/Getty Images)

Noble has gone on to play over 400 games for West Ham since his debut for the club back in 2004.

Lewis certainly has the ability to follow in his footsteps. An energetic midfield creator, West Ham look to have another midfield gem in their ranks and one that can hopefully progress into the first-team soon.

The Hammers have a fine record of bringing through young players.

Noble is one current example and Lewis could not be at a better club if he is to find his way into the West Ham first-team.

This season, with a relegation battle raging, might come a little too soon for the teenager.

Nonetheless, in 2018-19 it will not be a surprise if Lewis finds himself playing alongside Noble in the West Ham midfield once again.

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