Potential ability is becoming a bigger part of today’s game with more clubs willing to pay over the odds for quality young players with a lot of potential. Some young players go on to surpass their potential and become global superstars. Others have solid careers even if they never become ‘the next Messi’ or ‘the French Ronaldo’. There are those who are not so fortunate. Freddy Adu, Alvaro Recoba, Anthony Le Tallec, Stan Collymore and the list goes on. Young players who were supposedly poised to light up the world stage yet somehow they ended up as nothing more than an understudy.
Mario Balotelli was naturally talented. He had an eye for goal, supreme confidence and the God-given ability to execute the audacious. There was a certain Zlatan-esque quality about him. His pace and strength gave defenders a torrid time and the technique and power in his shot were the hallmarks of a top-notch finisher. Yet his attitude was always in question. Even before he became the widely sought-after prospect by many top clubs, he had an air about him and an arrogance that he hadn’t earned.
He often looked disinterested in matches and his work ethic was substantially lacking. Two stints with Roberto Mancini and the conclusion from the Italian manager was that he would punch Balotelli in the head everyday if they were teammates. Jose Mourinho who considers his time with the troubled footballer something of a comedy can only now do so with the benefit of hindsight. His petulance was easily excused when he was young but as he grew older, his attitude remained the same and this consistently put him at loggerheads with teammates, the manager and the fans. This culminated in restricted playing time, which hampered his growth as a footballer and led to his eventual departure from multiple clubs.
The media was also a constant distraction in his progression. Balotelli was involved in one controversy after another that did little to help his unimpressive public image. From car crashes, to boxing matches, to strip clubs, Mario gave fans more to talk about than what he brought on the pitch. I recall some of his ignorant quotes and often wonder if he would be a better player if he could only keep his mouth shut. The image of Mario Balotelli with his jersey hooked over his neck and a shirt that read “Why always me” perfectly summed up his love affair with the English press.
6 years after he won the Golden Boy award – Europe’s most prestigious award for umder-21 talent – Super Mario has been largely underwhelming. At 26, it’s not too late to salvage his career and the move to OGC Nice is exactly what he needs. The French media is less scathing than the English is and after his disaster with Liverpool, no one expects much from him. This should give him the chance to find his form back gradually without overwhelming scrutiny. I still think he can come good and will be watching closely for the return of the polarizing Italian.
Article By: Temiloluwa Durojaiye