Hoping Balotelli Can Be Super Mario In Nice!


At times I started to believe that I was the only one left in thinking that Mario Balotelli actually still had talent and wasn’t a complete waste of space.

Others have openly mocked the twenty-six year old.

Former Liverpool defender and Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher had a dig on Twitter:

While Reds striking legend Robbie Fowler stated in his newspaper column:

‘People still say he’s got talent, but I’ve yet to see any. No scoring instinct, no positional sense, and no progress,’

But the truth isn’t quite as clear cut as people suggest when saying that Mario is/was a rotten player. He just wasn’t a Liverpool type player.

In 2014 he was a panic buy made by Liverpool’s transfer committee after they sold their main striker Luis Suarez to Barcelona and failed to bring in number one target Alexis Sanchez. 

Both Suarez and Sanchez are similar in style and work ethic. They make great runs, they hassle defenders and they can score an array of different types of goals.

Liverpool’s then manager Brendan Rodgers had found a system that suited his squad and that system was built around Uruguayan frontman Suarez. Bringing in Balotelli and then expecting him to do the same runs and pressing just wasn’t going to workout. Simply put, it was like sticking a square peg into a round hole.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m sure Mario didn’t help his own cause as he most probably failed to even try and adapt his game but at the same time Liverpool never compromised by tweaking their style. It was the same scenario with both Christian Benteke and Andy Carroll, the direct approach just doesn’t suit Liverpool.

As a forward, Mario likes to do his own thing. He’ll get bored and come deep for the ball or trot out to the wings. As a forward he isn’t scared to have shots from distance. At times he’ll doing nothing and then come away with a goal or two. In his debut for OGC Nice against Olympique Marseille he had seven shots, four of which were on target, three of them were inside the box and he scored with two of those.

I was thinking of a similar type to Balotelli in the modern game and then French football writer  Andrew Gibney hit the nail on the head when he suggested he was more like Zlatan Ibrahimovic than the pacy forwards of Neymar or Suarez. They have power and that ability to be in the right place at the right time (they also have supreme confidence in their own ability and Mino Riaola as their agent). Mario just lacks the dedication and maturity Zlatan brings to the table or more importantly to the training field.

But it’s also very important that you have the right players around him to get the best from him. Players that will run past him and off him. Players that will make sure that he feels involved and make him feel like the star of the team. Those teammates have to sometimes pick up the slack when Mario doesn’t track-back but if they do that and make him a focal point then they could be rewarded with some fine displays, as his debut showed.

Nice beat Marseille 3-2 at home and Balotelli was a big part of that, with the Italian earning the man of the match accolade.

His first goal was a well taken penalty and his second was header within the six yard box.

In fact his second strike was the perfect response in relation to Fowler’s comments regarding his supposed lack of positional sense and scoring instinct. Right-sided wingback Ricardo Pereira made a very determined run down the flank before supplying a perfect ball into the box. Balotelli then had enough awareness to get in-between the two Marseille centre-halves and direct the header past the opposition goalkeeper. That goal, to me, suggests that he has an instinct for goals and positional sense too.

Look at Wylan Cyprien’s winner. The attacking midfielder picked the ball up and scored from distance. But Balo was actually perfectly positioned in the build up and would have been on hand had the keeper pushed out the shot. The Italian had managed to step away from his marker and gained room in a very opportunistic position, that strikers need to be in on those occasions.

Now Nice have recent history of rehabilitating troubled former prodigies. Last term they managed to coax Hatem Ben Arfa back into top form and he repaid their faith with seventeen Ligue 1 goals and helped Les Aiglons claim fourth spot in the league. That form won him a move to champions PSG and he was on the verge of making the French Euro 2016 squad.

No doubt they’ll be hoping to provide Mario Balotelli with the same kind of environment and get similar levels of return.

But I suppose again it comes back to Mario and he himself has to want it and he needs to start showing his ability on a weekly basis. There’s no point doing well in your debut or for the first few months and then declining again. That will just prove the doubters are right!

By all means go after the dream of the Ballon d’Or but do it properly by putting in the effort on the training ground and by making the most of your surroundings. Aim high and train like you want to touch the stars in every game that you play.

Because for all that I love Mario the misunderstood footballer with huge untapped talent in his boots, if he doesn’t make this move count when a team like OCG Nice will play to his strengths and pick up his slack then the truth is that he’ll never become that world class striker that he supposedly craves to be.

So it’s over to you Signor Balotelli!

One Response to “Hoping Balotelli Can Be Super Mario In Nice!”

  1. Excellent comments about our Balo. Liverpool tried to make into what he could never be. They had a system that he had to fit in and clearly that wasn’t going to work.

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