Mario Balotelli has reported back to pre-season at Anfield and his role in Jurgen Klopp’s plans is not yet known. He was already on loan when the German arrived at the club and this will be Klopp’s first viewing of the Italian at training. Balotelli will be well known to him, as he is to everybody in the world of football, but Klopp may see a role for the striker. There is no doubting his talent and potential, it is just his application that is questioned regularly. At the age of 25, he needs to find a permanent home, and can’t keep moving every summer.
Throughout his career he has never been a first team regular for his club, except the 2013/14 season with AC Milan, when he started 25 league matches. That is concerning and has certainly prevented the Italian from progressing as a player. The reasons for this are his application and his inconsistency on the pitch. He has always played for big clubs, with competition for places, and Balotelli is a maverick. The Italian is extremely talented, and is unplayable on his day, but these are few and far between. His attitude prevents him from putting together a consistent run of matches and when he is off his game, he is especially bad.
There is a talent there though and one that can deliver the goods, if he is persisted with. His first spell at Milan showed this, in 43 league matches, he scored 26 goals and contributed 6 assists. This was a fading Milan side, and he still managed to post numbers that most top tier strikers would be proud of. It was off the back of this form that he moved to Liverpool, but it wasn’t the right move for him personally. He wasn’t wanted by Brendan Rodgers and was misused throughout his run in the first team. Balotelli was the marquee name to replace Luis Suarez and he is a completely different sort of player. He was then used as a lone striker a lot of the time and that didn’t suit him at all. It wasn’t a surprise that it didn’t work out under Rodgers.
This past season, he struggled to recapture the form he had during his first spell at Milan, scoring just one league goal. A mixture of injuries and poor form were to blame for his lack of impact, but he is still well thought of by Milan and could move back there this summer. There is also interest from Sampdoria, which would represent how he has regressed since Euro 2012. His lack of progress is partly his own fault, but he has yet to find the right environment to progress, which is why this summer is crucial for the Italian.
Jurgen Klopp has a good record at getting the best out of his players and helping individuals progress as players. He is also loved by his players and manages to create a good team-spirit as a manager. A player like Balotelli, who is reported to a disrupting influence won’t appeal to him. However, he will give him a chance this pre-season and if he applies himself, there could be an opportunity for him to play himself into Klopp’s plans. If that is the case, Klopp could be the coach to help the Italian finally fulfil his potential.
Liverpool have Daniel Sturridge and Divock Origi, who are the main strikers at the club. However, Christian Benteke is expected to leave and there is certainly room for another forward in the squad. Sadio Mane has been brought in, but is more likely to play as an interior and Danny Ings is another option available to Klopp. Balotelli offers something different and can do exceptional things on a football pitch, but he will need to have an excellent pre-season to get into the first team picture at Liverpool. There is still a possibility for Balotelli at Liverpool. However, a move away looks most likely and Italy the probably destination. Balotelli’s career has stalled, and his decision this summer is key. There is still a lot of talent there, but time is running out for him.