To the ever-so devious Mario Balotelli life appears to be one big game – and, to that end, his move to Liverpool was one gargantuan loss.
The former Manchester City man, who had left the Etihad to join his beloved AC Milan in 2013, made his big return to English football just a year after departing, completing a £16 million deal to join Brendan Rodgers Liverpool side.
“I think we have done a really smart piece of business here,” said Rodgers at the time (BBC Sport).
“This transfer represents outstanding value for the club.”
“There is no doubting Mario’s ability,” he added. “He is a world-class talent and someone who, for such a young age, has vast experience of playing at the very highest level.
“I believe we have the infrastructure, culture and environment to get the best out of him and help him achieve his true potential.”
Oh, how very wrong he was.
Balotelli may have toned down the mischief when he arrived at Anfield – there were no cases of setting fireworks off his own house, anyway – but he was at a loss.
Indeed, it seems the Italian’s pranking was intrinsically linked with his footballing ability: you could not have one without the other.
He managed just a single Premier League goal in 16 appearances, which falls embarrassingly short of the tally of the man he was touted to replace, Luis Suarez, who had departed for FC Barcelona the same season.
This left Liverpool in the unprecedented position of having to rely on former Macclesfield Town and Stockport County player Ricky Lambert to carry the burden, as well an injury prone Daniel Sturridge.
It genuinely defies belief when you take time to reflect on that fact – especially considering Liverpool’s current stellar line-up.
Balotelli left just a year after being signed to re-join AC Milan, and later Ligue 1 side Nice – where he found his feet again.
In typical style he has since reflected on his time at Anfield with some less than complimentary observations.
“Joining Liverpool was the worst decision of my life,” the forward told French TV two years ago (via Joe.co.uk).
“Apart from the fantastic fans and some players with whom I have an excellent relationship, I did not like the club. I had two coaches at Liverpool, Rodgers and Klopp for a bit, I did not like their methods and their personality. I never really felt well there,” he added.
When asked which of the two clubs he preferred in England he simply said: “Pfft, City, a stupid question.”
We are sure Liverpool fans would have rather that version of Mario Balotelli just as much.
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