Mario Balotelli was always a gamble for Liverpool, a risk on a promising player with talent whose development had stalled and who came with baggage. The selling point was that he came relatively cheap, and that if he ever turned into the player his raw talent promised he could be, Liverpool could have themselves a striker as good as Zlatan Ibrahimovic in his prime.
So far, the gamble hasn’t paid off, either for the club or Balotelli, who moved to Liverpool to try and revive his career after it stalled in Italy after his move to Milan to try to revive his career when it stalled with Manchester City. According to Balotelli’s agent, though, there will be no career left to revive if he can’t make it at Anfield, and there will be no easy escapes. He must succeed at Liverpool or see his career die.
"The plan is to continue at Anfield," Mino Raiola told Gazzetta dello Sport when asked about his client’s future and the chances he could end up back in Italy either before the end of January or, failing that, next summer. "I saw him on Monday and I told him, ‘You have a four-year contract and I won’t find you a new home. Either you leave Liverpool for 60-70 million, and I won my bet, or you die there."
Colourful phrasing aside, the message is clear. In the summer, Raiola talked of Liverpool being his 24-year-old client’s last chance to make good on his promise at a big club. Now, if Balotelli can’t progress to a level similar to Luis Suarez did at Liverpool, with clubs offering obscene sums to attempt to land him, his career will die at the club. Unfortunately for all involved, the latter seems increasingly likely.
"It’s the first time I’ve made a speech like that to a player," Raiola added. "I’ve seen him quiet, changed, he’s different than at Milan. He’s disappointed with himself, too, going through a bad time like he’s never had. In Liverpool he hasn’t had many chances—he hasn’t done what has been asked of him and missed out. Then he was injured for eight weeks and lost any rhythm."