Does anyone remember Balotelli’s first season? He was strong, vibrant, playing in a very favourable environment, with one of the best managers of the world but most of all it was that confidence, not afraid of going over his opponent and score a wonder goal. Quickly we started realizing that the confidence was almost arrogance, and that same arrogance was transpiring into off-the-pitch antics. The young stallion was getting more attention for the bad things and the relationship with Mourinho and his colleagues started to crumble and a change was needed.
Mario was picked by Mancini, the manager in charge of Internazionale FC when he arrived at the Nerrazzuri, and he had a good first season at Manchester Ciry, showing his focus but slowly picking up on his crazy performances off the pitch, with the fire-cracker incident being one of the many protagonized by Balo. Provoking Mario, making him do something crazy that would get him sent off, started being one of the Premier League defenders favourite game, and it worked, with the second season with the Citizens resulting in 11 matches that Balotelli missed through suspension. Despite all of this, when the City fans watch their most memorable goal ever (Aguero’s last minute title-clincher) guess who holds up the ball and two defenders to give space for the Argentinian…yes, it’s Mario Balotelli.
Unfortunately, it seemed that Super Mario’s career was going downhill, as he sort of restarted it, doing very well at AC Milan and earning another transfer to England that ended up being a poor decision, as clearly Balotelli cannot adapt to the English environment, and it was with some surprise that we got the news that we would play the season 2016/17 at OGC Nice.
In there Mario found something that he can call a home. Nice is owned by a Chinese-American consortium but the investments are nothing extravagant, and the appeal of the city, known for its fantastic beaches and tourist activity, allowed this small team to build a strong squad that can count with a part-time superstar. Balotelli only played half of the Ligue 1 matches, but in 15 he scored 9 goals and had some key assists that helped the team being in a fight that no one dreamt possible. Nice sits only 3 points behind AS Monaco – and they’re level with PSG – and are confirming the good season they had last year. As for Balo, he started great but an injury has kept him from the starting eleven, but he doesn’t seem too upset with being on the bench. And when Lucien Favre (OGC Nice’s manager) and his teammates talk about him, you can see some form of nurturing, they now they have a joker that any team would like to have.
It’s hard to see Balotelli becoming a top player, but there will be space for him to grow in France. Away from huge spotlights and in an environment that allows him to be himself and still be a positive influence on his squad when he’s available and, who knows, maybe he’ll be the Ace in the tight dispute for Ligue 1.