Yesterday we discussed the prospect of Roma signing impending Manchester United free agent Marouane Fellaini this summer, an utterly banal prospect if ever there was one, but might there be a legitimately exciting (and controversial) option on the free agent market this summer, one who was once heralded as the future of Italy, if not the sport itself?
We’re talking about everyone’s favorite Why Always Me kid, Mario Balotelli. There’s no need to rehash Balotelli’s entire career—scores of websites and books have already been dedicated to that I’m sure—but suffice it to say, it didn’t go quite according to plan.
But a simple search reveals...well, nothing. Balotelli has managed to keep his nose clean since moving to Nice two seasons ago. No huge dust ups with managers, no in-home fireworks displays and virtually no histrionics of any sort. And while that may have been enough to re-establish his good name in and of itself, Balotelli is once again ballin’, putting up numbers that contend with some of the game’s great forwards.
Where Balotelli struggled to adapt to life in England (several times), and even in his late return to AC Milan, he’s taken to life in Ligue 1 like a duck to water. Since moving to Nice at the start of the 2016-2017 season, Balotelli has amassed 35 goals in all competitions, including 19 between Ligue 1 and the Europa League this season.
Super Mario, it seems, is back. And coincidentally enough, he’s about to be a free agent, a prospect that has got his super agent, Mino Raiola, in a tizzy. Looking to capitalize on his client’s resurgence, Raiola has proudly boasted that Balotelli is worth €100 million on the transfer market and should be considered among the top ten strikers in the game:
Mario is ready to return, he has matured into one of the top 10 strikers in the world...In Italy he’s number one. He’s worth €100m, but he’s on a free transfer and is therefore a bargain.I’m already negotiating with many clubs in England and in Italy. I’ve spoken with Juve, Roma, Napoli and Inter.
Hmm, not sure about the €100 million part, but Raiola might be onto something here. Balotelli isn’t currently one of the top ten strikers in the world by most metrics, he is nevertheless having a hell of a season. In 19 league appearances, Balotelli is averaging an astounding 5.4 shots per match and putting an even more astounding 64% of those on target, while converting 21% of those into goals. All told, Super Mario is averaging 0.78 goals per 90 minutes and has actually outperformed his expected goal total by a full three goals.
While conversion percentages are notoriously inconsistent from year to year, Balotelli is putting out shots like Honda puts out Civics, and what’s more, he’s doing so accurately and effectively. The comeback may indeed be real.
And all this could be yours free of transfer fees! But would Roma bite on Balotelli? Had Balotelli’s contract ran out several years ago, the answer would have been hell no. Not only was he still plagued by matters of immaturity, there was the veritable blood feud between Balotelli and Francesco Totti with which to contend.
But now that Totti has “retired” and Balotelli has managed to stay out of the headlines for a couple years, could that rift be healed? Well, if you believe EDF, he’s certainly open to the idea.
Balotelli? I’d coach him, I spoke to him two years ago about bringing him to Sassuolo, but nothing came of it. Still, he’s an interesting player with huge quality.
If Raiola’s prophecy proves true, Balotelli could be the bargain of the century.
Should Roma take a gamble on Balotelli?
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