After Jürgen Klopp omitted Mario Balotelli from Liverpool's first pre-season friendly, any debate on the player's future has been effectively settled. Mario Balotelli does not feature in the plans of the manager in the immediate or distant future, and despite taking part in training over the past week, being told to stay at home while his colleagues build their match fitness is quite conclusive indeed. Poor Mario.
Mario Balotelli recently opened up on his recent struggles, relationship with the media, and future at Liverpool FC under Jürgen Klopp. There seemed to be, at least to this writer, a willingness to push for a second chance on Merseyside. The problem for Balotelli, though, was a poor return in his last two seasons in Liverpool and AC Milan colours. The talent is not in question, but for a player who turns 26 next month with a history of big European clubs on his CV, there do not appear to be many clubs interested in signing a player who has just a year left on his contract.
Balotelli is believed to be earning £90,000 a week, although many reports conveniently forget that the Italian took a sizeable pay cut to move to Merseyside in 2014. Would he do so again to find the right move? It seems inconceivable that there aren't clubs interested in taking him on, but wages would probably prove to be a notable point of contention in negotiating an exit. His reputation seems at an extremely low point in Italy and England, ruling out clubs that might have the capacity to either match his wages or offer a competitive package. Besiktas should have been delighted at the chance to recruit Balotelli as the club's talismanic figure but reportedly rejected the chance to sign him. Perhaps interest will emerge from CSL or MLS clubs, but whether such moves aren't ideal for a high-profile player in his mid-twenties trying to relaunch his career at both club and international level.
There is also the possibility of another loan or Liverpool terminating the 25-year-old's contract, according to the reliable Paul Joyce of the Daily Express. In any case, there is no way back for Balotelli at Liverpool now. For the sake of his career, this talented individual should look to find a club where he can play regularly and hopefully thrive under a manager who considers him central to success. This approach has worked like a powerful and unbelievably stubborn juju charm for Hatem Ben Arfa—a similarly mercurial player who had lost his way before a wonderful campaign with Nice last season in Ligue 1. Ben Arfa is now a Paris Saint-Germain player with another chance to show what he can do.
Seven goals in 51 appearances across two seasons in two different top European leagues will hardly persuade anyone in Liverpool's coaching set up to take a significant gamble in keeping Balotelli around next season, and even Balotelli's biggest supporters would find it difficult to quibble with Liverpool's desire to move the player on. The presence of Daniel Sturridge, Divock Origi, Danny Ings, and Roberto Firmino in a season without European under a manager who looks set to play with a single striker should push any highly-paid reserve out of the club. While Christian Benteke has an interesting and surprisingly generous option to keep him in the Premier League, none currently exists for Balotelli.
There have been reports that Balotelli has been behaving professionally and trying hard in training this week, but he worked hard during his first season at the club. His attitude doesn't seem to be the problem, and for some time now, Balotelli has generally kept his head down. There's still a chance to turn it around, and hopefully both the player and club can find satisfactory solutions to a situation that's becoming increasingly depressing to see unfold. Mino Raiola, Balotelli's powerful agent, has got some work to do.