What next for Mario Balotelli after leaving Marseille?
Background photo: Hombrey, CC-BY-SA 4.0
After winning the 2010 Golden Boy award, Mario Balotelli said he didn’t know who runner-up Jack Wilshere was. That winter in 2010, Balotelli claimed only Lionel Messi betters him in terms of talent. Nine years on, the Italy international is a free agent being marketed by Mino Raiola to clubs in Europe’s big five leagues. The question is, what next for Super Mario?
At 28, Balotelli’s football career hasn’t gone full circle yet though it seems as if it has. After spells at Inter Milan, Manchester City, Milan and Liverpool – Balo has some bragging rights as a footballer; remarkably when you add that Champions League winner’s medal to his war-chest.
For someone who was highly-rated as a fledgeling young star, one begins to wonder if Balotelli’s career could’ve turned out better. Now looking for his eighth professional club, why has Balotelli become such a journeyman?
The truth is, Balotelli had the potential to be amongst Italy’s greatest strikers. Remember, no Italian striker won the Golden Boy award before he did. But the “Why-Always-Me” forward simply couldn’t get out of his mischievous ways. Same old, same old.
Earlier this July, Balotelli paid a bar owner in Naples €2000 to drive his moped into the sea. The barman gladly obliged for the quick cash; the Italian striker posted the crazy video on his Instagram handle. Funny, unsafe and senseless, the Italian police had to press charges against Balotelli regarding the incident.
It’s cliché to say the bar situation isn’t the first time Balotelli is fermenting mischief and blowing it out of proportion for good measure. This time though, it may or may not have hampered his chance of finding a team. Clubs want to know Balo is changed before taking a chance on him. From this incident, it’s clear a leopard never changes its spots.
Over the last three years, Balotelli has enjoyed a fairly productive time plying his trade in the French Ligue 1 – scoring 41 League goals in 73 outings for Nice and Marseille combined. With Marseille now opting against extending his contract beyond July 2019, Balotelli is free to go wherever he wishes.
Which teams could be interested in taking the problematic Balotelli?
Balotelli’s last appearance in the Premier League is one he’ll like to forget. Including the team that decided to spend money on him - Liverpool. He featured only 16 times in the league for the Reds and managed just one goal.
It’s rumoured West Ham is seriously considering signing the former Inter prodigy. The transfer would make sense for both parties if Manuel Pellegrini can manage Balotelli's ego and persona.
The Hammers need to fill the void left by the departure of forwards like Marko Arnautovic, Lucas Perez and Andy Carroll. Barring the problem of his wages and his temperament, nothing else stops Balo from delivering 15 goals for West Ham in 2019/20.
If they don’t go for Balotelli, the Irons risk spending no less than £40million replacing their departed strikers.
Newcastle United moved heaven and earth to sign Hoffenheim’s striker Joelinton for £40million. But there seems to be a massive clear out going on at St. James’s Park under Steve Bruce. Neither the Baggies nor the Magpies could hold on to Salomon Rondon, who instead chose the riches of the Chinese Super League.
The Magpies has also lost guys like Joselu and Ayoze Perez to Alaves and Leicester City respectively. Someone like Balotelli can give Newcastle some serious bite. Of course, they can’t rely on Joelinton for the entire campaign. They need another seasoned forward to help out the Brazilian goal-poacher.
Again, the questions surround whether Bruce can manage Balotelli.
A move to La Liga
Balotelli hasn’t played in La Liga before. He could find inner peace in Spain’s top-tier.
Espanyol is one destination that would suit someone like Balotelli pretty well. The club is based in a calm city like Nice; where Balo scored 43 goals in 76 games. Somewhat ironically, the Barcelona-based club tried to sign Balotelli before he went to France.
Espanyol did well in 2018/19’s La Liga, finishing a decent seventh. But things can get better. Especially if they get someone to share the goalscoring burden with Borja Iglesias. A man like Mario Balotelli can come in for free and do well...