There was a time when Mario Balotelli was on top of the world.
The Italian talisman had scored two goals in the Euro 2012 semi-finals, to take his country past pre-tournament favourites Germany, into the final where they would meet Spain.
It was the Spaniards who emerged as the champions, but Balotelli was hailed by many as the next big thing in football.
Unfortunately, for the striker, things didn’t pan out the way they were supposed to be, and he has nobody but himself to blame for that.
Fast forward to last Tuesday, Balotelli was stopped at the gates of Brescia’s training ground. He was denied entry into the facilities, and the player left the scene red-faced.
From being Italy’s marquee striker to being turned away from training sessions of his hometown club, what happened to Mario Balotelli? This is the story of his rise and fall.
A brief history of Mario Balotelli
Born in the city of Palermo, Balotelli began his career with the youth team of Lumezzane.
Soon, he would go on to make his first-team debut. The striker, after impressing everyone, was called for a trial at La Liga giants Barcelona, but he failed to impress the coaches at the Camp Nou.
However, due to his obvious talents, the player was signed by Inter Milan.
It was at the San Siro that he broke on to the world scene. Balotelli was called up to the first team by Roberto Mancini, whom he considered as a father figure.
However, his disciplinary issues often created more headlines than his on-field performances.
The Italian fell-out with Mancini’s successor, Jose Mourinho, who suspended the player from Inter’s first team in 2009.
With doubts over his career in the Serie A, he found an escape to Manchester City in 2010, with Mancini coming to his rescue again.
The rise to prominence
Balotelli’s performances continued to be enigmatic, yet his off-field antics continued to dominate headlines.
Who can forget his “Why always me?” celebration, and that he once set off fireworks in his own house.
In 2011-12, he helped Manchester City end their long wait for the elusive Premier League title by scoring 17 goals throughout the campaign, including two in the famous 6-1 thrashing of Manchester United, before setting up Sergio Aguero’s league-winning goal in injury-time against Queen Park Rangers.
Mario Balotelli’s decline began after his heroics in the Euro 2012. The Italian started the subsequent campaign poorly, and soon fell-out with Mancini after a training ground bust-up.
By this time, Manchester City hierarchy had seen enough, and the striker was shipped off to AC Milan in 2013.
Return to Serie A and rise of disciplinary issues
Despite new surroundings, the story remained the same.
Mario Balotelli was caught smoking in a train before AC Milan’s match against Fiorentina, he was suspended for three games for arguing with Serie A officials, and all this while, he had been involved in various spats with television pundits and fans on social media.
Subsequently, the bad boy of football was offloaded to Liverpool in 2014, with the Reds being desperate to find a replacement for Luis Suarez, who joined Barcelona the same summer.
Unfortunately, Balotelli proved to be anything but that.
The Italian could muster just four goals in 28 appearances for Liverpool, who promptly sent him back to Milan on a season-long loan deal in 2015.
He continued to put in underwhelming performances for the Rossoneri, often plagued by injuries and bad form. The striker returned to Liverpool in 2016, but new Reds boss Jurgen Klopp had seen enough of him as he was sold to Ligue 1 outfit Nice.
Move to Ligue 1 and resurgence of ‘super’ Mario
During his three-year stay in France with Nice and Marseille, Balotelli found his scoring boots again.
However, he continued to be plagued by his lack of discipline.
He was given multiple bans for misbehaving with the referees and for kicking out at opposition players.
He was even subjected to racist chants which further angered him.
While playing for Marseille, he one scored a spectacular bicycle kick goal and celebrated by posting a picture on his phone, despite being on the field.
It was such antics that made Balotelli a public figure.
Homecoming with Brescia
Ahead of the 2019-20 campaign, the 29-year-old signed a multi-year contract with Brescia. Till date, he has played for the club only 19 times and has five goals to show for his efforts.
Mario Balotelli’s disciplinary issues haven’t improved one bit, he has skipped training sessions on multiple occasions, and his off-field antics have forced the owners of Brescia to take serious action against the player, including banishing him from entering the training facilities.
As per reports, the striker’s current contract will be terminated which means he will become a free agent again.
Life has come full circle for Balotelli, and despite having the potential of being a world-class footballer, yet somehow, his story will always be of enormous talent wasted.
All stats courtesy: Transfermarkt.co.in