When last we heard from our favorite mohawked madman, Mario Balotelli, it right about this time last year as he came to the close of what turned out to be an unexpectedly impressive but still quintessentially Balotellian inaugural season with Nice in France. We are delighted to inform you that since then, Balotelli has only built on that season with a similarly solid campaign this year, which he may have just capped this weekend in just about the most Balotellian fashion possible.
Balotelli is Nice’s leading scorer with 16 goals in just 26 Ligue 1 appearances. As you could maybe predict from Balo’s history, those goal stats are goosed by five penalties and come accompanied with not a single assist. Still, even without the spot kicks and lay-ons, he boasts a very respectable strike rate for a forward in a relatively uncreative team like Nice.
None of those goals—nor the six others he put past keepers in seven Europa League matches—compare in beauty with the soloist effort he scored against Marseille this weekend. The goal itself is a bit of an outlier for the typical Balotelli golazo, coming as it did after something he traditionally isn’t known for: namely, lots of hard running.
A much more familiar sight—Balo possibly getting himself in trouble—came after his early goal, after Balotelli had picked up a yellow card and Marseille had equalized. As the Italian went into the tunnel to head to the locker room at halftime, a hot mic picked up Balotelli discussing the performance of the referees in, well, colorful fashion:
In the video above Balotelli can be heard saying, in English, “Every time, fucking French refs. Every time, fucking French refs.” This outburst bears some similarities with the infamous Zlatan rant about refereeing in what he called “this shit country” of France. Zlatan was suspended for four matches for his words, and while Balotelli didn’t seem to be directing his comments at an actual referee the way Zlatan did, it’s possible the authorities hit him with some kind of suspension, too.
If so, that would be something of a shame. With only two matches left in the Ligue 1 season, there aren’t many chances left for us to relish the end of what has been a hearteningly consistent couple years in the career of Super Mario. Balotelli has scored 31 goals in his two seasons in France, and those goals coupled with his ability to not to burn every bridge for once has been the evidence his fans have long awaited that he could be a good, dependable striker in a good team once he finally screwed his well-coifed head on straight.
Balotelli’s contract with Nice is up at the end of this season, and it was never likely that he’d stick around for another year. Most likely he’ll be looking for a return to Italy’s Serie A, hopefully at a solid, upwardly mobile midtable club that will offer him the minutes and support he needs to thrive. Regardless of whether or not his French excursion ends on this note, his time at Nice will have been a hilarious, entertaining, and rewarding song for all lovers of soccer, craziness, and soccer craziness to enjoy. Like another famously well-traveled Italian, Balotelli came, he saw, and he conquered—if not France, then at least the career-thwarting impulses inside himself.