Mario Balotelli at Liverpool – Is it now or never?
With the Italian, Mario Balotelli, struggling to make an impact with his new club Liverpool, we analyse how this could potentially be a last chance for the maverick striker to prove himself.
When Mario Balotelli moved from Manchester City to AC Milan in January 2013, one would have thought we will finally get to see the best out of ‘Super Mario’. His frequent feuds with his compatriot and then City manager Roberto Mancini, combined with his off-field antics meant Mario really had a tough time in England. With a move to the club he supported as a kid, everything seemed to be going well for the Italian. A return of 12 goals in 13 games for The Rossoneri, firing the San Siro side to a Champions League spot, he finally seemed to have matured. Fast forward a year, the once ‘thought to be Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s replacement’ at Milan, was deemed unwanted.
Liverpool took the gamble, and grabbed the opportunity to sign the striker. In today’s transfer market, where players move for astronomical fees, the Merseyside club pulled a coup by landing the former Inter striker for just £16 million. Having lost talisman Luis Suarez to Barcelona, Brendan Rodgers replaced the controversial Uruguayan with another controversial figure. While Milan are already reaping the benefits of getting rid of Balotelli, the Reds are concerned as their summer recruit is yet to find his feet running.
Balotelli has become an instant hit amongst the Reds faithful, by poking fun at Manchester United aftermath of their shocking 5-3 loss against newly promoted Leicester City but that is all off-field. The attacker also got Liverbird – the symbol of city of Liverpool – into the side of his head, making him somewhat of an instant cult hero. That being said, his on-field antics haven’t been convincing. The Italian has managed to score only one goal in his six appearances for Liverpool, and is yet to find the back of the net in the Premier League. He was found guilty of missing many notable chances against the likes of Spurs, Aston Villa and Everton. He was again blunt in front of the goal yesterday, with the Reds suffering a 1-0 defeat against Swiss side FC Basel.
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers though, has been cautious with his approach towards the Italian, defending him, at the same time expecting more from him. “[He] worked hard, [but he] needs to do more,” Rodgers told Sky Sports. “That’s the simplicity of it. Mario will be judged on what he creates and what he scores and he didn’t score.” the former Swansea manager told Sky Sports.
When Balotelli arrived at Anfield, he had the mammoth task of replacing star striker Luis Suarez. Despite failing to make an impression with his new club, Mario on his day can be devastating. Make no mistake, he is the same Mario Balotelli, who tore apart the German defence in the semi-finals of the EURO 2012. But with time running out, and with the burden of expectation increasing, this might be the last opportunity to revive his career. Else it won’t be long before Super Mario says, “WHY ALWAYS ME” but this time for all the wrong reasons.
Sunil A Markal
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