When Brendan Rodgers initially signed Mario Balotelli for as little as £16million back in the summer, the majority of the footballing community were in agreement that Liverpool had landed a potentially world class player for a decent price, and that the likes of Arsenal and Manchester City were silly for letting him go unchallenged to one of their title rivals.
Half a season is a long time in English football however, and as the enigmatic Italian has so far failed to record a single Premier League goal in the 2014/15 campaign, many are calling for his head at Anfield already. Reports of his apparent lack of determination and laziness on the field, whether or not they have any basis in the truth, have swiftly taken over from the happy-go-lucky stories that only seem to surround Mario Balotelli when things are going well in his career.
Now that the January transfer window is once again upon us, will ‘Super Mario’ ever find his feet with the Reds, or will Balotelli be forced to move on once again to really make a name for himself in world football.
The ever controversial Italian has always been one for making headlines throughout his career, whether it be through reportedly turning up at a female prison just to look around, or letting off fireworks in his own house, Balotelli never fails to capture the public’s imagination.
Such stories have hardly been helpful for the Liverpool no. 45 however, in his so far turbulent Anfield life. When he was spotted as a spectator at Nathan Cleverly and Tony Bellew’s boxing bout last November, the night before Liverpool were due to play Crystal Palace in London, the press were up in arms over his questioned loyalty to the club’s cause. If it were anyone else however, the incident would have been largely ignored and most probably forgotten.
The ‘why always me?’ life has therefore not always been kind to Balotelli, but as the unpredictable striker used to make countless headlines on the pitch as well as off it, it is a lifestyle that has seen many plaudits surround Super Mario for his footballing ability.
The Palermo-born forward, who is still only 24-years-old, carries with him the ability to beat his man, use his vision to find his teammates, and hit the ball with such a power that even the world’s very best keepers would do well to keep it out of the back of the net. He may have a distinct lack of urgency and movement in his game at this current stage, but under the right manager and with careful coaching, Mario Balotelli possesses a level of technical skill that very few players ever reach. It remains a real shame that he has been unable to link up with Daniel Sturridge so far at Anfield, due to the England international’s lengthy spell on the sidelines.
One question still surrounds Mario in his current career crossroads however – is he really worth it? For current Serie A leaders, Juventus, the answer seems to be a resounding yes. Massimiliano Allegri is apparently keen on handing Balotelli yet another sensational return back to Italy, with an initial six-month loan deal touted in The Metro.
Italy’s ever-publicised striker hardly set the world alight during his time with AC Milan, but potentially alongside Carlos Tevez in Allegri’s new look strikeforce, Juventus might just be the club where Mario finally finds some consistency.
For the good of the Premier League, and for the player himself, fans of English football should not want to see the end of Balotelli, regardless of whatever feelings they have towards Liverpool. The game needs players who excite, players who get people talking and players with character. And if Mario Balotelli is one thing and one thing only – he’s certainly a character.