Mario Balotelli loves having his name in the headlines. Most of the time, it’s not for the best of reasons. But recently, its mainly been linking him with a return to the Premier League, and a move to the Emirates. Arsene Wenger is reportedly ready to bolster his attacking options next season with the addition of the moody Italian, who hasn’t had the greatest of times back in Serie A. This time in the colours of AC Milan, rivals of his former team Inter, Balotelli has regularly suffered racial abuse both on the pitch, and during training when with the Italian national team.
Unsurprisingly, such disgusting behaviour is said to be having an effect on the 23-year-old, with a return to England now rumoured to be an option. But Arsenal aren’t the only club reportedly interested in the former Manchester City man. With the ongoing doubts over Luis Suarez’s future at Liverpool, the Merseysiders are also being chucked in the frame. The Express believe that Brendan Rodgers will move for Balotelli, should the club decide to cash in on the shamed Suarez.
But is a move to Anfield the best thing for Mario? With Suarez out of the limelight, the Italian forward would see himself as the club’s star player and main goalscoring threat, but that won’t be the case. Daniel Sturridge will fight Balotelli for that title, and you can’t imagine that ending prettily. Sturridge left Chelsea in search of being the number 1 striker somewhere, and whilst he hasn’t had that entirely with Suarez around, the Englishman did excel whilst the number 7 was banned for biting Branislav Ivanovic.
When Suarez did play, the two linked up brilliantly, finding each other with almost telepathic back heels, such as the goal against Cardiff. Of course, there were times when they went for goal themselves instead of opting to pass, but that’s expected from two in-form strikers. But I just can’t see Balotelli and Sturridge sharing the same connection. Nor can I see the Italian fitting into Rodgers’ style of football, unless he alters that slightly. If the Northern Irishman wants to replace Suarez like for like, then Balotelli isn’t the sort of forward that will look for nutmegs and to turn a defender inside and out. If Rodgers wants that to be done by Sterling, Sturridge and Coutinho, with his new forward waiting in the box for the easy finish, then maybe Balotelli is the right man for the job.
But at Arsenal, the Italian has a different type of striker to fight with. In a way, a very similar forward. Both Giroud and Balotelli can hold the ball up well and wait for midfield enforcements, as well as turning and unleashing a blistering shot. The Frenchman’s lack of consistency may work to Balotelli’s advantage, and see him become the new number 1 striker at the Emirates.
Of course with Balotelli comes baggage. An incredible confidence that most would call arrogance, and the ability to find himself in ridiculous scenarios. Bathroom fireworks, academy darts and a training ground car crash all come to mind when thinking of the Italian’s incidents during his Manchester City days. But both Wenger and Rodgers are good people managers, and work around making sure players are happy both on and off the pitch. Yes Balotelli would provide a challenge, but who’s to say either manager couldn’t get the best out of Mario? Before he moved to Anfield, Sturridge was often selfish and greedy, but in just 18 months under Brendan Rodgers, the Englishman has transformed into a striker working for the team, happy to assist as well as score.
A move to Arsenal might work out brilliantly. Balotelli needs to be loved, and the supporters need a striker to fall in love with. The crowd had Henry, they then had van Persie, now could be the time for Balotelli to be the crowd’s favourite. The only doubt is whether he would be able to handle Arsenal’s style. Would he play the passes Giroud did in THAT goal against Norwich? Could he handle times when the Gunners attempted to pass the ball into the net? Or would they even need to do that if he was on the pitch?
It’s difficult to say which team Balotelli would suit exactly, but that is Balotelli for you, unpredictable. We know he’s a great finisher, and a dangerous forward. But it’s about which manager can handle the baggage, put their arm around him the way Mancini never did, and get the most out of the Italian. I’d say Wenger will want him more, and the competition with Giroud he’ll bring will benefit the French striker. Considering the title-winning and Champions League experience Wenger has over Rodgers, he’ll be in a better position to find the best out of Balotelli.