Italy’s future in club and international terms is bleak, whether you look at the fact that the Serie A could be losing one of it’s Champions League spots to Germany, or you take into consideration that the Italian National Team is full of decrepit and defensive players. Not only this, but Italy isn’t producing the stars that would be able to step up to the plate when the time arrived, Italy misses speed and creativity because it relies on players like Gattuso, Camoranesi, and Cannavaro. Amidst the depressing future of Italian football, a bright star shines, whether he is mature enough or not, only time will tell, but Mario Balotelli could be one of the greatest players in the world, as long as he stays on track.
Mario Balotelli has had a strange sort of career, his three years at Inter Milan aren’t filled with goals, but it seems like Balotelli is more than just a goal-scorer. His first year he burst onto the scene with 7 goals in 15 appearances in all competitions, a great record for an 18 year old. The next season he scored 10 in 31 and this year he’s at 9 in 30, not only this, but throughout his career he has had 12 assists, 6 coming this season. Not only do the stats look good for such a young player, but Balotelli does much more than goals, he is tall, and able to use his physicality well, providing great hold up play. Balotelli also has an edge of trickery and speed, he often cuts inside from the wings to fire blistering shots at the keeper, and his creative side has certainly improved after playing with Ibrahimovic. Mario Balotelli is probably the most complete young striker around.
So why isn’t Balotelli earning a starting 11 spot in the Inter Milan line-up, and at least a squad spot in the Italy side? Lippi says that Balotelli isn’t mature enough, and I would sadly have to agree, and although he has games where he smashes a rocket into the top right corner, he also has games like this past weekend against Genoa. Balotelli could be described as a slow moving giant, attracting defenders like flies, who when try to take the ball, find Balotelli writhing in pain on the floor. Mario Balotelli slows down the tempo of the game, stopping Inter from creating smooth and beautiful football, often getting yellow cards in the late minutes of the match for diving or stupid fouls. It really seems like Balotelli can’t find a happy medium between humility and cockiness. It’s a cycle; Balotelli starts out humble, playing 20 minutes as a sub in a match or two, after scoring a couple of goals, he decides to come out with a remark like, “I remember scoring a lot more goals when I was in the starting 11,” Jose Mourinho starts him, and Balotelli is cocky the entire match, and is either taken off so that Inter can salvage some points, or left on so he doesn’t whine. Not only does this affect Inter and their position in the table, but it affects the tactical moves that Mourinho pulls off.
And if there was a manager that could tame raw talent, you’d expect it to be Jose Mourinho, the man dripping with confidence and ego makes every player he has had feel special. When he was at Chelsea he said Drogba was the best striker in the world, last year at Inter Milan he said that Ibrahomovic was the best striker in the world, and this year? He said that Eto’o is the best striker in the world (when asked about his fluctuating opinion, Mourinho cooly replied, “Because the players I train are always the best”). So why is Balotelli still complaining to the media about his playing time? I think the best way to sum it up is this; when Balotelli was a youngster playing for Lumezzane’s youth team, Barcelona offered him a contract, but Balotelli was stubborn and insisted on having a higher salary, therefore refusing to sign with the biggest club in the world, and eventually going to Inter Milan where Massimo Moratti met the youngster’s demands.
Balotelli seems to be an untamable young talent, even for Jose Mourinho, and while fans are claiming he should have a seat on the plane to South Africa, I would have to agree with Marcello Lippi. Balotelli is too immature, cocky, and inexperienced, and although he has all these defects, he still seems to be Italy’s brightest young star for the future.