Mario Balotelli, The Enigma’s Possible Last Chance at Genoa

To say that Nicolas Anelka had a troubled footballing career is an understatement. From false accusations to attitude issues, the mercurial forward witnessed it all. The Frenchman has plenty of embellishments on his career that cannot be wiped off by a Netflix documentary.

Antonio Cassano comes close to Anelka and so does Hatem Ben Arfa. Both are gifted forwards who never truly realized their potential, but neither make the cut as his heir if one is to take into consideration the issues Mario Balotelli had to face on and off the pitch.

Balotelli is a real enigma. From Francesco Totti’s horror tackle to constant battles with racism, he has faced it all. But it does not end there as the Italian forward has made many mistakes on his own.

While Cassano and Ben Arfa did manage to find some solace at Sampdoria and Newcastle United, Balotelli only has had troubled stints at Inter, Milan, and Manchester City to show for.

Like Anelka, he has moved around, but trouble has always followed him. José Mourinho popularized him as the quintessential bad boy, but even his staunchest supporters have deserted him. At the age of 30, even Italy’s coach Roberto Mancini does not want to do anything with him, while Mino Raiola also finds it hard to give him a time of his day.

There is no doubt about his credentials. He is a top forward who can change the match on its head in a single spurt. Balotelli is that talented. He was a force of nature as an 18-year-old and still has that quality about him.

Long gone are the days when Mario Balotelli broke through at Inter and seemed to have a shimmering career ahead of him…

A year ago, returning to his roots at Brescia was supposed to reignite his career. He started brightly and was even made team captain before the coronavirus lockdown. It all took a downturn since.

The Biancazzurri axed him from the roster following his failure to update the club on his fitness regimen during the lockdown period. Balotelli has maintained his innocence as another media trial ensued on him. He might be in the right, but the public sentiment is in favor of the club.

He is not the young phenom he once was but still holds clout. It is his footballing ability that makes him an enterprising prospect, but his other antics make clubs nervous. After all, Patrick Vieira had spent time with him at Inter and Manchester City, but he did not have a second thought when stomping his authority with Nice.

It is in the shadows of these incidents that one thinks about when considering the possible move of Balotelli to Genoa. Rolando Maran is the fifth incumbent of the managerial hot seat since June 2019. The club has a chop and change philosophy and has failed to live up to its billing. They have only finished in the top half of the Serie A table once in the last decade.

Balotelli joining them on a one-year deal with the option of a yearlong extension would put the ball squarely in their half. This might be the last hurrah for 36-time capped Italy international. He can get on the scoreboard and help improve on Genoa’s 17th place finish last season.

Maran is undoubtedly that guy. At Cagliari, he helped Radja Nainggolan find his love for the game again and ensured Giovanni Simeone scored the goals that are expected of him. But what can Balotelli give in return to Genoa?

Is it possible that his attitude has changed about the sport that runs through his veins? Only time will tell whether the mercurial forward’s move to Genoa is a boom or a bust. However, one thing is for certain; Genoa will be in the news if the complete his signing as Balotelli has a penchant for making the headlines.

After an overly disappointing stint in his hometown Brescia, Mario Balotelli may get yet another chance for redemption at Genoa – Will he manage to turn his footballing fate around this time?

About the likeliness with Anelka, Balotelli’s story is still unfinished. There are no doubts about similarities in their potential abilities, but the French forward had the last laugh with Les Bleus or his numerous clubs. At Chelsea, he was at the pinnacle of his career while also thriving with Arsenal and Fenerbahce.

Mario Balotelli has not had that luxury yet. He has been prolific at the San Siro and the Etihad but not the main protagonist. He can still change that. If he gives a good account of himself at the Luigi Ferraris Stadium, there is still a possibility of making it to the European Championships and earning a move to a top club. If. Only if.

Only if he could start delivering on the promise that earned him a Serie A debut at the age of 17. Such is his allure that one can only wonder what he could have managed. Even after 15 years as a professional footballer, there is still time before he hangs up his boots. One can only hope that, when he does, all the pending questions about him and his potential will have found an answer.