A few leaked training grounds misdeeds aside, Mario Balotelli seemed to have put most of the controversy and bad behaviour behind himself at Liverpool. And in truth, even those supposed misdeeds—a wonder-strike own goal and sending a lackey out to buy an iPhone—were hardly the stuff of teammate hell, painting the picture of a player who was a touch immature at worst.
According to AC Milan’s CEO, it’s also been a changed Balotelli who’s arrived back in Milan after a year away. It may be early days yet for him back at the Italian club, but hopes are high that this new Mario Balotelli they have got back from England is a player who will put his head down and succeed where, last time around, he often struggled. Or it could turn out just to be positive spin for a new signing.
"He has shown an extraordinary attitude so far," said CEO Adriano Galliani. "He’s changed radically. He’s been the first to arrive for training and the last to leave. The coach often wants the players to have breakfast at 8:30, and he’s always there before 8. He seems to have realised that this is his last chance and I’m sure he won’t waste it. His technical ability has never been in question."
It’s good news for both player and his new club, as well as for Liverpool. Without a purchase option in his loan deal, the question of what to do with Balotelli next summer must already be in the minds of Liverpool’s management, and a strong showing at Milan—one that makes the racially motivated behaiour contract Balotelli signed look as unnecessary as it is unfortunate—only improves their position.
Few expect Balotelli to ever return to Liverpool as a player, but a good year with Milan makes it far more likely they club can recoup some of their investment in him with a permanent deal next summer. If he flounders, struggling for minutes and failing to make an impact, then another year on loan with Liverpool stuck paying a sizeable chunk of his wages is likely to be the only possible outcome.
Balotelli’s time at Liverpool was a waste. A waste of a season and a transfer fee and a of a lot of column inches devoted to rehashing tired old narratives about the player. Hopefully, for everybody’s sake, things go a little bit better this season.
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