With Mario Balotelli on the verge of completing a £16million move from Milan to Liverpool, he leaves a country with vocal segments that don't like him very much for one that he isn't particularly fond of. After ending his three-year stint with Man City to join Milan, the club he supported as a boy and now hasn't supported him as an adult, Balotelli was asked to list "the bad things that left a bad impression" of England.
"The press first. The weather. The food. The way you drive."
He did specify that he loved the Premier League and the fans, but it's still surprising that he would return. And so soon. It seems to be a case of Balotelli settling for the lesser of two disappointments.
Despite coming off the most productive season of his career in which he played 41 matches and scored 18 goals across all competitions (both personal bests), his relationship with Milan quickly deteriorated. Days after joining the club, the younger brother of owner Silvio Berlusconi made a racist comment about him, setting an ugly tone of racial abuse that was continued by opposing supporters around the country. And when a story emerged about Milan hiring an ex-cop to keep an eye on Balotelli, his agent, Mino Raiola, expressed his own frustrations with the treatment of his client in Italy.
From Italian Football Daily:
“When I brought him to City, I thought he could live with less pressure. Maybe I made a mistake bringing him back to Italy. Do I scare the fans with this? I’m realist, even if it would be really a bad thing if Mario leaves the country for this reason. Whatever Mario does is news. His private life is public. This job is already enough stressful, this pressure complicates it even more. I admire Mario, I don’t know if I could handle this situation for 365 days”.
So with Milan losing interest in Balotelli after just a season and a half (the club's entire statement on his departure: "Mario Balotelli drove out of Milanello at 13.30 after saying good-bye to his team-mates and the club's press staff") and Balotelli presumably feeling disillusioned with Serie A once again, it was time for him to move to his fourth club in seven years. From Italy to England, then back to Italy and now back to England.
The combination of external forces and his internal struggles continue to make it impossible for him to settle in and find a professional home. Though Liverpool could end up being a good fit on the pitch, providing a fruitful partnership with Daniel Sturridge and loyal support, it seems likely that newspaper headlines and intense scrutiny of Balotelli's extracurricular antics (not to mention the weather, food and the driving) will once again sour the experience and prompt yet another move.
For Mario Balotelli, history tends to repeat in the all the wrong ways, keeping him in a constant state of turmoil and unrest. Maybe Steven Gerrard will at least be able to help him find a decent restaurant in Liverpool before his next move, though.
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