repost from here
With the news today of Mario Balotelli almost definitely signing for Liverpool, I wanted to take the opportunity to review a player I first saw play for Inter’s Primavera versus Sheffield FC in November 2007, playing alongside a then-recovering World Cup winner Marco Materazzi.
Inter Primavera v Sheffield FC, Mario Balotelli's first real public outing
Balotelli is a player who is best characterised as, on his day, one of the best strikers in the game. I remember watching the tail end of a Milan game earlier this season, where, after 85 minutes of boring 0-0, Balotelli decides out of nowhere to score a wondergoal to win Milan the game. I think little has summed up the rollercoaster ride of Balotelli as the last season. At some times genius, at other times disinterested and a disaster – lack of talent, as we see from Jonathan, is something fans will forgive for, but laziness is not.
Mario Balotelli in action
As Italy fans will know, when Balotelli wants to turn up, he really turns up. He can single-handedly win games. I don’t claim he is the most talented striker in the world, but rather, the sheer audacity in many of the things he does – wondergoal as a case in point. But what he does have going for him is his ability to simply get things done, when he wants to.
The other Mario Balotelli
And therein lies the problem. When he wants to. But then it is time to consider the Liverpool atmosphere.
One area where Balotelli really failed at Inter was his integration with a much older squad. He often grated on the more senior members of the team – such as trying to take the penalty off Milito (if I remember correctly), his frequent falling out with Materazzi, and so forth. Moving to Liverpool he will find a completely different environment, with a young squad with the right amount of experience, with a lot of players of his own age (infact many younger) for him to joke around with. I believe he’ll find Liverpool, at least at first, a more harmonious environment for his own needs.
Add to this Brendan Rodgers – a man who has managed to coax the best out of several of his team who have historically underperformed or underachieved. He managed to solve, rather quickly and efficiently, issues with players such as Raheem Sterling – who had legal issues of his own. On top of this, he gives his attacking players the freedom they need to really express themselves, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Balotelli given the free reign that he has longed for – no defensive duties.
We need to look at where Balotelli fits in to the picture, too. Liverpool won’t drop Sturridge for Balotelli, and I think that the all-action striker role is his best – so either a tactical overhaul to 4-4-2 (unlikely) is in the works, or a rotation role, or the inside forward. I suspect we’ll see a mixture of the latter two, given Liverpool’s lack of depth in the last few seasons, but fundamentally I think Balotelli will be a rotation player for Liverpool. And that concerns me, as I don’t know how his attitude will sit with that. I have no doubt that being benched at Inter in the treble season was a large source of the boredom for Balotelli which ultimately led to his exit at Inter.
One thing we should look at is that, effectively, Balotelli’s transfers have been for decreasing amounts of money since he left Inter. A 22 million euro transfer to City, before a 20 million euro move to Milan, and now 19-20 to Liverpool, what is happening is that managers are considering the cost-benefit for Mario Balotelli, and progressively reducing their valuation on the risk analysis chart.
I think Balotelli is very fortunate to be given this chance at a big club again, after his failures at Milan, his boyhood club, the club he’s always dreamed of playing at, and yet his shortest career stint to date. One might state that Balotelli was being unfairly targeted as a scapegoat by the fans at Milan, or that a move to a club which came 2nd in the Premiership last year and have reinforced and are competing in the Champions League this year is a step up for him, but there can be no denial that leaving Milan was almost certainly not entirely Balotelli’s decision.
I think it’ll be interesting to see where this goes. I think I’ve explored to some depth the reasons on either side for the argument, and I’ll let you make up your mind as to which way it will go. Please do let me know, though, and if you feel I’ve missed any compelling reasons, arguments, or perspectives, please let me know!