Controversy. Charisma. Consistency.
The career path of Mario Balotelli has been unpredictable, much like the striker’s style of play on the field and his antics off of it.
The Italian started his playing career in the youth ranks of Lumezzane before making an impression on Serie A giants Internazionale. From there, he would attract the likes of Manchester City and Liverpool, already famous for his trademark, “Why Always Me?” goal celebrations. The love/hate relationship with the Serie A would continue as Balotelli would transfer to AC Milan in 2013 and return again in 2015 for a loan spell.
Since his departure from Manchester City, many have referred to him as a ‘waste of talent’ or ‘done for good’, but given his time with Nice Balotelli has entered into a renaissance of his own.
Scoring 12 goals in 15 appearances this season for the French side has ranked him sixth in the league for top goal scorer, trailing the likes of Cavani (20), Falcao (16), Fekir (15), Neymar (15), and Mariano (13). In all competitions from 2016, Balotelli has 34 goals in 49 appearances with Nice. We haven’t seen numbers like this since his days with Manchester City where he netted 30 goals in 80 appearances.
Nothing against the Ligue 1 or the qualify of defending it features, but it isn’t really regarded as one of the ‘most competitive’ leagues in the world. That being said, this isn’t the one and only time Mario has been scoring goals, he has been doing it his whole career.
Since turning heads in Ligue 1 with OGC Nice, the former Italian international is now rumored to be making a return to Serie A, Napoli in particular.
Such rumors, if true, raise questions: Could Balotelli in blue live up to the standard of Balotelli in red and black stripes (past or present)? What might Napoli be getting themselves into? And why would they need to do so just now?
One striker too many?
Napoli currently sit in 1st place in the Serie A, a point ahead of Juventus. What has contributed most to their success has been the adoption of the 4-3-3 formation with Insigne, Mertens, and Callejon leading the attacking line. This season alone the trio have combined for 21 goals and 13 assists.
Gli Azzurri are on the brink of winning their first Serie A title since the 1989-90 season. Can Balotelli act as a ‘true Number 9’ with his 6’2″ frame, breaking up the smaller stature of the Napoli trio, or would he simply be an imposed presence looming over their already earned success.
The Serie A has treated Balotelli well from his younger years with Inter to the middle of his career with AC Milan. For both teams, he would go on to appear over one hundred times and score over forty.
Bags packed and ready to go
About a month ago, Balotelli said he would re-join Manchester City “for free”, so he is up for a move, but is any team willing to take him in?
At this point, going by the numbers, I feel as though it would be foolish not to. The man has proven his worth throughout his career and his time spent with Nice has been anything but a drought or dry spell.
Once regarded as one of the most promising young Italians of his generation, the now twenty-seven year old has seemingly moved from team to team on a steady two year rotation. His career path has been anything close to ordinary and has taken Balotelli to places he probably never imagined, yet he has produced along the way.
If you were a team looking for a striker in this January window, would you take a chance on Balotelli or are there better options available?