No longer a boy: Mario Balotelli has betrayed football fans world over

With Liverpool set to become his fourth club in seven years, Mario Balotelli is yet to showcase his true potential writes Aditya Bajaj.

By Aditya Bajaj

The one thing common between the likes of Eden Hazard, James Rodriguez, Neymar, Mario Gotze and Mario Balotelli is that they are all breakout stars born in or after the year 1990 to have taken the footballing world by storm with their talent.

But that’s where the similarities end.

While the likes of Rodriguez and Neymar have gone on to become and continue to climb up the ladder of growth, Super Mario is still where he was when he broke out as a young and exciting talent at Inter Milan almost ‘half a decade ago’.

Yes, it’s been that long but the story still remains the same.

Mario is super-talented but he is unsettled and after opportunities with the likes Inter, Manchester City and his dream club AC Milan he is yet to fulfil his potential. His next destination? Liverpool. That’s his fourth club in seven years, and he has failed to make a mark at all the clubs he has played for.  

Every time the Italian striker moves to a different club, it feels like he is just at the beginning of his career but here is what he has already won at such a young age – three Serie A tittles, the Premier League , the FA Cup, the Coppa Italia and the Champions league. Add to that the Euro 2012, where he finished runners-up with Italy losing out to eventual champions Spain.

What Mario has experienced in his career is something that many his age can only dream of. He has worked under some of the best managers in football in Jose Mourinho and Roberto Mancini. Not many get a chance to share the same dressing room with the likes of Javier Zanetti, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Samuel Eto’o and Kaka to name a few.

That’s where you watch and learn – but not if you’re Balotelli.

The excuses are frankly running out. That he is young and hence wayward with his attitude towards the game no longer holds valid for someone who only recently turned 24.  

If it was about wearing a Milan shirt to a TV show or throwing away his shirt to the ground after the 2010 Champions League semi-final against Barcelona while at Inter, his continuous bust up with Mancini and his off the field antics made headlines in England throughout his time in Manchester.

A self-professed Rossoneri since a boy, his transfer in January, 2013 from Manchester City to Milan raised hopes that maybe Mario would finally turn up and realise his full potential. But despite a glittering start to his career at the San Siro – perhaps his best – where he scored 12 goals in 13 games to help the Diavolo secure a crucial Champions League spot for the next season, his first full season was a disappointment.

His market value and the money exchanged during his various transfers are a reflection of a stagnant career. While his move from Inter to Manchester City cost the English club close to €22 million, Milan paid around the same amount to secure his service last year only to sell him to Liverpool for less than what they paid for as they secure a €20 million deal to Anfield.

Though Liverpool have pulled off a coup to sign a striker who is easily capable of scoring 20 goals a season for such a nominal fee, the fact that Milan agreed to offload him for that cheap shows how desperate they were to ‘get rid’ of a player who was supposed to fill the void left by Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Milan remember are financially struggling and already in need of re-enforcements up front and in midfield, the seven-time European champions didn’t mind creating another void which could hit them hard to get him off their roster.

Having suggested that he is perhaps better than Zlatan Ibrahimovic, albeit as a joke, there is much the 24-year old can learn from the Swede. Both share the same agent and are never stable at the same club for long but the Paris Saint Germain striker has always been a professional on the field. Apart from that failed stint at Barcelona, Ibrahimovic has only left his previous clubs longing for more with his departure. With Mario on the other hand, it has always been a case of ‘good-riddance’ rather than good-bye’.  

Although he represents a great addition to Brendan Rodgers as a replacement for Luis Suarez, expectations will be low. With Mario, we’ve seen it all over and over again. There is no dearth of attacking talent in football today and Balotelli needs to understand that fast as he remains in danger of falling into obscurity like many who in the past have failed to get their careers together despite a plethora of talent.

Milan was his great chance to prove that he can carry a team on his shoulder but he failed the club, the fans and the neutrals who have only waited and waited to see the real Mario Balotelli.

His agent, Mino Raiola put all the blame on Milan for expecting a leader following his departure from Italy. Well, Milan were foolish perhaps but so were the millions of football fans who expected the same.

Follow Aditya Bajaj on Twitter - @adityabajaj