Formerly of Manchester City and both Milan sides, the forward is now a Liverpool player and with Daniel Sturridge out, is copping a fair bit of stick for his handful of performances in their red shirt so far.
As per usual when it comes to Balotelli, people seem to either idolise or despise him, and this time around it seems no different, with Joey Barton – the saint and Ballon d’Or candidate that is – sticking his boot in via twitter, obviously, given he would not be able to get close to Balotelli on the field, and Liverpool legend turned Match of the Day pundit Mark Lawrenson throwing a fair bit of criticism his way – and claiming that Brendan Rodgers will be buying a forward come January.
Quite the opinions given Balotelli only joined Liverpool in the summer and is still finding his feet at the club.
Yes, he already knows the league having played for Manchester City, but everyone deserves a bedding-in period. Had he been an foreign player who had not previously played on our shores, would the same expectations have been held? Absolutely not, no.
Balotelli only cost Liverpool £16 million. An utter steal when you consider Danny Welbeck cost Arsene Wenger the same amount of cash and whilst he might have treble the temperament, he has less than half the god given talent Balotelli possesses.
That is what people should consider when they assess the forward.
He did not cost £35 million, £50 million or an outrageous amount for a season long loan (Falcao is yet to find the net for United in the league by the way – not that he has the chance to do it in Europe or the League Cup mind you).
Balotelli is already off the mark in Europe for Liverpool and is coming ever closer in the league. Yes, he might have missed from four yards out in the Merseyside derby, but so can anyone. A bit of luck here, a deflection there and it looks oh so different. The stick, quite frankly, is unfair and unwarranted.
His first goal for the Reds came in the Champions League, against Ludogorets, who Daily Mail writer Adrian Durham called ‘also-rans.’
Well not only can you only score against what is in front of you, but Balotelli managed what his teammates certainly seemed to find difficult during that game and found the back of the net – not from the spot either. The very same team face Real Madrid this week. One can only imagine if Cristiano Ronaldo nets another hat-trick (penalty included) for Los Blancos against the minnows- he will be a genius.
It is standard practice in football to turn stats and the reputation of a team to suit your own ends and opinions.
Durham is a self-confessed Wayne Rooney fan. Fair enough, but you can bet your season ticket on the fact that he would look at Rooney’s goals for England and claim the forward was a star for the country. He would not however point out that the vast majority of them are against so called ‘also-rans.’ Because he likes Rooney. He does not – clearly – like Balotelli.
To call him an ‘overpaid penalty taker’ is ludicrous. How you can penalise a player for being able to take a set play or spot kick is beyond reason. How certain sides would like to have one of those come international tournaments – England fans certainly would. His penalty taking certainly served Liverpool well in their Capital One Cup tie.
Bizarrely, Durham also seems to blame Balotelli’s arrival at Anfield for ‘effectively ending Ricky Lambert’s top flight career.’ Well. Where to even begin with that one.
For a start, yes, Lambert did well for Southampton. He and he alone made the decision to move to Anfield – his boyhood club – and has been rewarded by being handed the armband and chance to lead the club out at Anfield. The stuff of dreams.
On a more practical note, Lambert is a decent player, a squad player when you look at a side in the top four or title contenders as Liverpool assume themselves to be.
Loic Remy has not ‘ended’ his top flight career by going to Chelsea to play second fiddle to Diego Costa. He might spend more time on the bench, granted, but he can play Champions League matches and win titles. Not exactly ending anything.
The same applies for Lambert. He has moved up in the world and is now experiencing being a different type of player for a team. He could have stayed at Southampton and played every week, winning nothing. Or he could sit on the bench at times and make his dreams come true. Pretty clear which is the better option.
To claim that by adding another top forward to a squad, you are ending the career of another is stupid beyond belief. You cannot go through the season with one forward. What would have happened if Luis Saurez would’ve stayed at the club? Or if Radamel Falcao or Karim Benzema had arrived? Lambert would have moved down the pecking order. Obviously.
Not to mention the fact that if Balotelli is as bad as Durham professes, he won’t be starting for very long anyway, allowing Lambert back into the side.
Despite the trashing he receives in the media and his reputation for being ‘unmanageable’, Balotelli’s scoring record is more than decent. At Inter Milan, in 76 games, Balotelli scored 28 goals and managed to add 13 assists to that record.
For Manchester City, it was 54 league appearances and 20 goals – 30 goals in 80 appearances in total. In their title winning season, his strike to conversion rate was better than either Sergio Aguero or Edin Dzeko could boast with 13 goals in 1325 minutes of football.
His return to the San Siro in the AC Milan strip this time hailed 30 goals in all competitions after making 54 appearances. Not exactly Fernando Torres bad. In fact, it is actually rather good and when you consider his first season at the club where he bagged 12 goals in 1145 minutes, you are close to being in a goal a game situation.
When you factor in Balotelli’s age as well, not to mention the fact that he is constantly improving his game and can – despite what his detractors say -adapt to both the English and the Italian league, not to mention the international set up, it is all the more impressive.
When Balotelli is on form, he is blistering. His performance in the Euros in 2012 was nothing short of world class and he showed it in flashes during the World Cup too. Yes, he needs to work on his consistency, but what young 20 something does not?
Yes, Balotelli has his issues. No one, not even the forward himself would try and argue with that – but he has won a remarkable amount for someone who is deemed to be a waste of space. Pundits and the media are so quick to jump on a bandwagon and generate column inches and headlines – and quite frankly, Balotelli’s return to England has been quite unremarkable so far and certainly does not warrant the coverage it has produced.
The boy is damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t. If he fails to make headlines, the media simply create them for him. If he does well on the field, they try their hardest to find something to write about his life off it.
Balotelli is a young man of 24 years of age. Yes, he has a bit of a, shall we say, eventful personal life but find a lad who has that kind of money at such a young age and does not go a little bit wild at times.
Ryan Giggs and John Terry managed to keep it under wraps for years and there are no doubt others who have skeletons in their closet, but all people seem to care about is crucifying a handful of people. Luckily for Balotelli, he now has a set of supporters who take players to their hearts and will defend them come hell or high water – not bay for blood. Luis Suarez drew blood on more than one occasion and was still loved beyond all reason at Anfield.
There is no doubt that the time for fireworks and gimmicky t-shirts has come and gone. Now is the time for Balotelli to step up and be counted – and smart money is on him doing exactly that. It would just be nice if he had a chance to do so before the vultures arrived to pick over a carcass that has not even gone cold yet.
Footyettes. Is Mario super or mad? Will he make a success of his time at Anfield? Let us know your thoughts below or tweet us @LaFootyettes.