Mario Balotelli, the stormy, temperamental ego-maniac of a footballer rolled up to Liverpool in the summer of 2014 and ever since has been a non-stop rush of… nothing. No madness, no stunning snippets of quality, no anger, no desire, barely any goals. Nothing.
The accepted practice when discussing players such as Balotelli is to stick to clichés which haven’t quite become clichés yet. “He’s only good when he wants to be, him”. “He might be annoying but if he wants to affect a game, he will”. I call bulls**t on this. Lionel Messi loses games, as does Cristiano Ronaldo. Luis Suarez loses games, and so does every single top player that has ever lived. Mario Balotelli doesn’t possess anywhere near their ability, so where does the notion come from that he alone decides the fate of games, as and when he desires? Last summer he came in, and as naïve as I was, I was delighted. I fully bought into the idea that this move could work, and that Balotelli’s talent was as high as his backers will have you believe.
Then last season happened, and it didn’t even happen with style. With the exception of his debut against Tottenham and a good performance away at Crystal Palace in the FA Cup, he did nothing to show signs of the supposed world class potential that is waiting to be harnessed. Yet to conclude that maybe it isn’t there, and the move billed by everyone as his ‘last big chance’ has already been ruined beyond repair, is seen as some sort of betrayal to the enigma. The ego that we all love our players to have; this was also notably not there at any point last season, for better or worse.
Maybe last season debunked some myths about Mario Balotelli, and how once he sorted himself out of the field he would become an unstoppable force on it. Bar the reports of not turning up to training sessions and such, which isn’t information privy to the majority of fans first hand, his off-the-pitch record from last season was fine. Nothing to report. No storms. No ego. This created the perfect opportunity for him to silence his critics and pay back those who have backed him, and remarkably still continue to do so.
So where next for Balotelli? It seems unlikely that he will stay and go on to be successful at Liverpool, despite the calls to “give him a chance with a partner”. The fact is, the nature of Liverpool’s squad and tactical style means that strikers must be able to play up as a lone striker with attacking midfielders supporting them at some stage in the season. Good players adapt to this, and there’s no agenda based decisions in wanting rid of someone who can’t adapt. It’s merely the manager and coaching staff doing what they think is best for the club.
So this transfer window will pass by and Mario Balotelli may leave, or remain a Liverpool player. He may even do both, and become entrapped in loan moves until his contract at Liverpool is up. However inadvertently it may be, he has become a pawn in the battle Brendan Rodgers faces to re-win over Liverpool fans and his Liverpool future will pay the price. Saddening really, as a fan all I wanted was to see him do well and Liverpool win stuff. Maybe the next one will be different? After all, despite the reputation, all Balotelli has been is just another signing that didn’t work out.