When a player doesn’t work out at a new club, questions are always asked. Was it the player’s fault? The manager’s? Were there different decisions that could have been made to lead to a better outcome? With Mario Balotelli, it’s clear the club at least are trying to spin it as being entirely his fault.
Stories leaked by the club about scoring wonder-own goals and cutting out of practice to buy an iPhone don’t paint the striker in the most mature, professional light. However, they hardly show Balotelli to be the lost cause and dressing room destroyer some would like to believe he is. Mostly they show am immature 25-year-old.
Perhaps Balotelli could have tried harder and been more serious. If his misdeeds amount to the stories recently leaked to the friendly press by Fenway Sports Group, though, they’re hardly the stuff of Balotelli legend. And no matter what, the club have to take their share of the blame for his failing at Liverpool.
"I accept my faults," Balotelli told Gazetta dello Sport after arriving back in Milan on loan this week, a year after his £16M Liverpool move. "But Brendan Rodgers’ formation also didn’t suit my characteristics. I missed a lot of easy chances at the start, then had fewer opportunities to score, a bit of bad luck, and some injuries.
"It was a mess, but I never complained. I accepted the choices of the manager and always behaved like a professional. The grown-up Mario didn’t just land here at Milan. Even at Liverpool my behaviour and lifestyle were normal. There haven’t been any problems in my private life in the last year."
Balotelli’s only actual "incident" while at Liverpool involved a misguided attempt to responded to racist abuse by sharing an image that itself was racist. Compared to the stories surrounding Balotelli at past stops in his career, he was a model professional. Even taking into account the occasional training ground practical joke.
Mario Balotelli didn’t work out at Liverpool, and maybe he could have done more than he did. But there are no maybes involved in saying Liverpool could have done more. That isolating him as a lone striker didn’t suit his game and always greatly lowered the chances their £16M gamble would come good.
Liverpool rolled the dice on a talented player with issues. And then they played against any strengths he might have had at every opportunity. Balotelli might not have worked out at the club under any circumstances, but that doesn’t change that the circumstances at Liverpool made failure a foregone conclusion.
"I’m 25 years old, no longer a child," added the Italian striker. "I threw away too many chances already, and I’m grateful to Milan. Coming back is a dream come true. I’m a man now and do not create problems. I will accept any decision. The coach is a leader—hard, honest, frank, sincere. I have a great debt to him.
"I want to do well with Milan and regain my place in the national team, but for now I just have to work. It’s one step at a time. If I put together many good performances maybe I’ll get to France, and I do want to play in the European Championship. I will do everything to achieve that.
"To see me with the national team was one of the wishes of my father before he died, so I owe it to him. Football is my life. I love to play."