One of the modern football mysteries is how Mario Balotelli could have fallen so far from grace within the Italian National game and indeed from his lofty club football career.
As a young player at Inter Milan he had obvious talent in abundance and that was readily exploited by then manager Roberto Mancini. However, the young player had many demons within his personal life and this often spilled over onto the pitch and in the dressing room too, making him a target of derision from within the Italian game and leading many to think he wasn’t made of the right stuff.
When Mancini left Inter Milan and took the reins at Manchester City, so too came the call for Balotelli to join him there and whilst there was a modicum of success for the young striker in his early games, he never quite lived up to the billing.
There was his bountiful class on show at times but also his temperamental nature surely rubbed fellow players and coaching staff up the wrong way, indeed he would have many fall outs with his manager at the time too.
After his less than salubrious return to Italy where he played for AC Milan, he was then taken to Liverpool after a decent showing at the Euros for Italy. He had found form and goals were aplenty in Italy…but his immaturity was still on display in most encounters.
Suffice to say that his Liverpool career never really got going with a single goal in sixteen appearances. This also led to a fall from favour within the Italian national team set up too and the following season saw him return to AC Milan but once again a single goal in twenty appearances did little to convince the naysayers that he could offer anything for a club team nor the national side, who themselves were struggling to find the net on a regular basis and ultimately was the reason Italy failed to qualify for this year’s World Cup.
When all seemed lost and Balotelli’s career seemed to hit rock bottom, then a surprise transfer to Nice in France would seem to have rejuvenated the player and rekindled interest from many clubs and the national team also…but nobody was quite ready to take a risk on his services just yet…they needed more convincing.
Well a couple of seasons at Nice, 51 appearances and 33 goals later…Balotelli has become hot property again. He has gone about his business quietly and efficiently and appears to have matured to become a prolific striker for club as well as a worthy ambassador of football too.
As Roberto Mancini took over the Italian national team manager’s role, it seemed rather prophetic that Balotelli would get the call to finally rejoin Gli Azzurri once again. In his first game back he bagged a goal last night against a feeble Saudi Arabia in which Italy won 1-2. Although he made mistakes alongside sloppy playing teammates, he also showed some masterful touches too. Dropping deep occasionally and his hold up play and linking in with midfield runners was what Italy had been missing for a couple of years. His goal was a 20yard fizzer and overall he had a decent game, to the pleasure of the manager and coaching staff, let alone the fans and the FIGC.
The question now is whether Balotelli will remain at Nice or will he stretch his wings to leap to another club, or even return to the Premier League. Would Pellegrini and West Ham look upon his services as a positive step forward to improve the squad?
The main stumbling block for Balotelli is that he has burnt man bridges in the football world and he has lost the trust of both fans and managers and players too, so he would be a risk, although his attitude certainly seems to have improved in the last couple of seasons.
At 27yrs old he is the perfect age to build a new squad and his talent was never in doubt, so the question now is whether this type of player could fit into a new West Ham set up? He would certainly be an asset but much of this success would depend on which players, like Hernandez, would remain at the club and which role Balotelli would be asked to play. Could he gel with the other players and with the likes of Arnautovic…perhaps one maverick is all any team really needs!
As a player, as a talent…Balotelli is definitely the kind of player that would improve the West Ham squad…but he would be a risk in any language, however if there is a chance to gain his services on a free transfer at the end of June, it would seem like good business if Pellegrini could fathom a way to make him fit into this new squad of his.