Mario Balotelli, after a miserable 2014-15 season back in the Premiership with Liverpool, has been given yet another chance, this time with the Rossoneri. A lifeline to save his career which is something we typically don’t say about a 25-year old with exceptional ability like his.
On Tuesday, Milan completed the deal to bring back the former Inter striker on a season-long loan deal from the Merseyside club. Both Milan and Liverpool have not yet officially announced the deal but it should be made official sometime this week as Balotelli has already undergone and passed the proper medical examinations as well as trained with the squad at Milanello.
After returning to his former club exactly a year later, the ex-Manchester City striker spoke to the media to express his emotions. Balotelli (via @Milanello):
“I’m very happy to have returned to Milan. I’m very motivated, but I don’t have much desire to talk. I have to work hard and that’s it.”
On August 25th, 2014, Balotelli departed Milan in a way that perhaps didn’t sit well with most of the fans as he was quoted saying, according to BBC Sport: “I’m happy to be back because I left England and it was a mistake. I wanted to go to Italy, but I realized it was a mistake.”
On Tuesday, he spoke about the San Siro outfit and his return to the club he spent 18 months with:
“If I ever imagined returning to Milan? Yes, I have always had Milan in my heart and I always hoped that I could return. Will I end my career at Milan? I have to work hard and do well this year, and then we will see what happens.”
Mario Balotelli’s return has stirred up controversy with the club’s supporters as the need, in the eyes of most, lies in the midfield rather than in the attack which is loaded with Carlos Bacca, Luiz Adriano and Jérémy Menez. The other concerns that fans have with this addition needs not be mentioned. However, this deal holds a minimal financial risk as the deal is a season loan with Milan paying roughly 2 million euros of the player’s wages for the season. The loan will cost nothing more to the Rossoneri aside from the wages which makes the move worth the risk in my opinion given the player’s age, track record in Serie A from a statistical standpoint and his ability when he is clicking.
Balotelli did excel during his first stint with Milan from January 2013 to August 2014 despite all that surrounded him, being involved in 32 Serie A goals (26 goals, 6 assists), more than any other player in that period, according to OptaPaolo.
Now while there are ways in which this move can provide positive results, it’s worth mentioning the risk involved in bringing back Balotelli for obvious reasons. Siniša Mihajlović, who served as an assistant under Roberto Mancini while Balotelli was with Inter, has been brought in by Milan to change the complexity of the club from the way the players prepare at training to their performance on the pitch and inside the locker room, which seemed to be a source of many issues surrounding the club these past few years. Mihajlović is trying to discipline the side and have his player’s physically, mentally and emotionally ready to achieve success this year and with the arrival of Balotelli who holds a track record of controversy, it could threaten any immediate plans for improvement.
But perhaps the former Sampdoria boss can succeed in what managers Massimiliano Allegri, Clarence Seedorf, Jose Mourinho and Brendan Rodgers failed at: taming Mario Balotelli and harnessing the ability inside him.
With about a week remaining in the Italian Summer Transfer Window and still areas to fill for Galliani and company, it’s still unclear as to how Balotelli will be integrated into the club under Mihajlović. Bacca and Adriano are expected to be starters while Menez and Matri remain in the mix for now. Keisuke Honda will be given the nod to play behind the two men up top in the 4-3-1-2 barring any major additions, and Roberto Soriano and Axel Wistel remain two primary targets. Mario Balotelli joins Milan once again but in a completely new, unfamiliar state as he is no longer observed as a clear-cut starter. He will have to prove to the club that he has changed his ways and is ready to prove that his ability outweighs his “baggage.”
Mario Balotelli, gifted another chance to define himself as a footballer and cement his career. Will Milan regret giving him this lifeline?