OUT OF TIME MARIO?

As the transfer deadline looms on the 31st August, many in the football are rather anxious for different reasons. There are managers who are desperate to further strengthen their squads, those who have injured players to replace and the lucky few who merely need reinforcements. Then you have the players. There are players who have been told that it would be in their best interest to find new clubs because they do not fit into their manager’s plans, players who are desperately seeking a move to get more playing time and those pushing for their big money move .

What next for Mario?

But there is one particular case which would certainly be one of the more curious ones by the time the dust settles at midnight next week Wednesday, and it is that of Liverpool outcast Mario Balotelli. “Super Mario” as he has been called for pretty much most of his career, would be desperate for what could be his last chance at salvaging what is left of a career that began so brightly, and by all indications should have blossomed into a fine one.

He began his professional career at Lumezzane, and had such good reviews that he earned himself a trial at FC Barcelona. However there were some rumours that he and his agent at the time were asking for a ridiculous amount of money for a youngster, negotiations eventually broke down. He subsequently joined Inter Milan where Roberto Mancini was manager. He showed early promise and Mancini was confident enough in his ability to promote him to the first team. Balotelli and Mancini seemed to develop a Father-Son relationship during their time together at Inter. However Mancini soon departed the club for Manchester City, leaving Mario behind.

Jose Mourinho was appointed Mancini’s successor and the two had a torrid time together. Mourinho once said that if he was to write a book about his time with Mario, it would not be a drama, but a comedy. Mourinho banned him from the first team as a result of several disciplinary issues and it became obvious he had no future at the club.

Roberto Mancini decided to bring him to Manchester city to give him another chance at a new club hoping that he could have a positive influence on him. He fared no better at City, suffering more lows than highs. There were games where he was at his utmost best and even unplayable. But unfortunately, for majority of the time he looked disinterested and basically allowed the game to pass him by. For a player who showed how brilliant he can be on occasions, it was absolutely frustrating at times for both the manager and fans to see him at his worst. Spats with his teammates and manager were a regular occurrence, and his disciplinary record in the league hurt the team. Sure he did win some trophies and will be remembered for providing that last ditch pass to Sergio Aguero to score the late winner which gave City their first ever Premier League title. But when Mario finally left City for AC Milan, one can only imagine how relieved the City coaching staff were to finally be rid of him. He was Milan’s problem now.

Mancini telling Mario off?

Although his return did not match his 1st season performance in Italy, he was impressive and his performances and goals saw Milan finish 3rd, in the final Champions League qualifying spot that year. However, come next season, he was up to his old tricks again and his form suffered too. Milan were willing to sell at the end of the season and found a buyer in Liverpool who were willing to take a gamble on him. Milan’s President said at the time that it was the easiest £16m he had ever made.

There were many eyebrows raised when it was announced that Liverpool had signed a player who already had one of the worst reputations in England due to his exploits the last time he was around. But Brendan Rodgers, the then Liverpool manager was confident in his ability to handle Mario and get the best out of him. He would go on to rue this decision as Mario only scored a single premier league goal all season and never found his best form. Another return to Milan was on the cards, this time on loan. He failed to live up to expectations back in Italy with his poor form and injuries hampering his opportunities to improve upon them.

Balotelli is now back at Liverpool and looking for yet another opportunity to salvage a career that is gradually looking to be dead in the water. Banished to train alone, the current Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has made it clear he has no place for him in the team. Most top clubs do not want anything to do with a troubled player who can not even back up his unprofessional-ism with performances. Previously, the lure of how good he can be on his day was what tempted clubs to take a chance on him despite his reputation. These days he is linked to clubs like Crotone, Chievo, Pescara and Ajax. Ajax have seemingly cooled their interest in recent weeks. It's a shame because Balotelli can actually be very good when he is at his best form. He is strong, powerful, skillful, he has pace, and a remarkable finishing ability. At one point he was regarded as one of the best penalty takers in the world. At times the swagger with which he played the game was delightful to watch. He remains Italy’s top scorer in the UEFA European championships with 3 goals, after his performances in Euro 2012.

The player has recently stated that he is determined to salvage his career and hopefully win the Ballon D’or. It is no surprise that many have laughed off this declaration. But at 26 I still do believe that he can salvage his career. But it would depend on the player’s attitude and discipline over the next few years. As his agent has said he needs the right situation to do so. I would expect him to humble himself, even possibly take a pay cut as i suspect his wages are one of the reasons why he still has not found a club, and get to work. Other players have been able to do it and so can he. But like I said, it would all depend on his attitude and discipline going forward. He has done extensive damage to his reputation in football and he needs to understand he is certainly going to struggle to find the options he would have wished for at this point.

Can he return to his best?

Yet another classic example to young professionals coming up that talent is not enough. Hard work and professionalism matters just as much to be successful in football.