Liverpool have pretty obviously been trying to offload the mercurial and misfiring Mario Balotelli for months now. And while we haven’t yet seen the kind of public outbursts we’re used to when Balo has previously overstayed his welcome, the Independent has a rundown of previously unreported incidents that have convinced Liverpool he’s not worth the trouble.
The jig was finally up, the Independent says, after two incidents in a single March training session. The first was a seemingly small thing. An assistant coach attempted to huddle up the group and give them some sort of instructions. Across the way Balotelli saw an injured player, presumably involved in some sort of rehab exercise, and randomly started shouting over to him. The coach was apparently annoyed that Balo would take that moment, right as he was trying to speak with the group, to interrupt everything.
The second event was a little more confounding:
Later in the afternoon, Balotelli scored a jaw-dropping goal from near the halfway line. Witnesses stood open-mouthed: first-team players shook their heads in disbelief, youngsters smirked nervously at the brilliance in front of them. One problem: the goal was at the wrong end.
At 1-1 during a 10 on 10 match, with Balotelli on the weaker team made up of likely substitutes for the weekend’s game at Arsenal as well as teenagers from the academy, he deemed it appropriate to turn around and fire a shot towards Brad Jones. The goalkeeper was helpless. Balotelli thought it hilarious, laughing away by himself in the centre circle.
These weren’t the only times Balotelli failed to endear himself to coaches and teammates. Manager Brendan Rodgers didn’t take too well to hearing that Balotelli had stayed up late the night before a Champions League match, nor to him getting his driver’s license suspended for a month for speeding in December.
By Christmas, indeed, Balotelli did not know the names of some of his team-mates – regulars who feature in the starting XI. It is reasoned he lost out on moments where relationships are developed because he missed home cooking so much that rather than eating at Melwood before and after training, he organised for lunch and dinner to be delivered to his Formby mansion from an Italian restaurant.
One of Balotelli’s chief party partners, according to the article, is Desmond N’Ze, a former soccer player who befriended the Italian striker back in their days at Inter. N’Ze has given up his low-level career, however, and now just runs around town with Balotelli. The striker would often invite N’Ze into the Liverpool training ground before the club had to tell him this was not acceptable. After that point, a common sight in the training ground parking lot was N’Ze asleep in Balo’s car, waiting on him to get out of practice.
News like this is definitely distressing, but should also be put in perspective. There are scores of professional athletes in all sports who probably party just as hard and do just as much dumb shit as Balo. However, they know enough to cut it out when it’s time to go about the actual business of their jobs. That Balotelli has failed to manage this meager feat at any of his various clubs over his career should put into serious doubt whether he’ll ever become the player he could have.
On the other hand, he’s still only 25 years old, still only staying up late with his crew of hangers-on, still making mistakes that are dumb rather than malicious. Soccer—and Italy especially—is littered with wonderkids who got huge egos and huge checks as young kids, and proceeded to burn both the money and the goodwill at a frightening pace. Many of them managed to settle down a bit and put together some solid, productive years on the pitch. Driving too fast and staying up too late are only unforgivable crimes when you aren’t scoring enough goals to make up for the headaches.
Balotelli could still very well be the next Antonio Cassano, wild in his youth and less so as he aged, but unless he gets on the pitch again and shows the world he can still score with the best of them, he might not get the chance. And at any rate, it’s not going to happen in Liverpool.