Liverpool striker Mario Balotelli has been in the headlines again this week, thanks in part to swapping shirts at half-time, and also for arguably the much more important issue of disappearing match after match.
In fact since his highly publicised £16m move from AC Milan to Anfield, Balotelli is yet to break his duck domestically, from six appearances – his only goal coming late on against Ludogorets in the Champions League.
But his poor form is not new to Mario – including a poor end to the season in Northern Italy, and a disastrous World Cup outing for the striker in Brazil, Balotelli has only scored two goals in his last 20 games in all competitions – Strike partner Daniel Sturridge has eight, while Balotelli’s replacement in the Azzurri set-up, Graziano Pelle, has 15 in 20 matches.
In short, it’s easy to see why he has been dropped from the national team (without going into arguments with senior members of the squad, and the Coach), and why there is already talk of an Anfield exit, most likely in the Summer.
While goalscoring has been non-existent for Balo, just as frustrating for manager Brendan Rodgers will be the lack of teamwork and passing – teammate Raheem Sterling is noticeably frustrated in recent games, and has been seen complaining to his attacking partner. Adam Lallana also was visibly frustrated with the Italian’s exploits against QPR (where he had seven shots). As Michael Owen tweeted, “Most worrying thing is his teammates’ body language towards him… Once you lose their respect it’s a big struggle.”
It is by no means the end for Balotelli, but he is seemingly drinking at the last-chance saloon, and his inability to make him indispensable at any top club could soon see him move down a level, possibly to a club where scrutiny will be reduced, something that might suit him. One thing we have learned in recent years however, is never to make predictions about Mario Balotelli.