Mario Balotelli has almost become the equivalent of a meme when it comes to soccer players, these days. His brand image has suffered over the past five years, mainly due to the unceasing flow of negative media that seems to follow the Italian. However, in his first few appearances with Nice, having left Liverpool over the summer window, he looks a player reborn, showing signs of the deadly striker who tore apart Germany in Euro 2012.
With Super Mario scoring five goals in his first few Ligue 1 matches with Nice, there is already chatter regarding his next move, with some pundits claiming that this is the second coming of Balotelli, his chance to achieve his destiny and win the Ballon d’Or.
First off, there have been far too many lackadaisical performances and instances of bad press over the past years to suggest that a few goals will turn it all around for Mario. This isn’t the first time he has started well at a new club. If you can remember back to all those years ago, Balotelli scored in his debut with Manchester City as a substitute in the Europa League. He then proceeded to score two in his debut with AC Milan in 2013 having moved to the San Siro during the January transfer window. Even at Liverpool, Balotelli started his stint strong, scoring a decisive goal in his third week of play. But after these strong starts, the tale seems all too familiar for the man Jose Mourinho described as “unmanageable.”
Having given a lot of thought to the career of Mario Balotelli, there seems a logical next step for him after his time at Nice, a direction that would allow him to excel, hold the limelight, and get consistent playing time. My friends, welcome Mario Balotelli to Major League Soccer…
It all makes sense when you really think about it. An egomaniac striker who hasn’t even reached the potential prime of his career, who desires above all else to be the focal point of a team, but strangely enough, doesn’t seem to want the pressure of a major European club. Also, I can’t help but chuckle thinking about Mario Balotelli trying to survive winters in the likes of Minnesota or Seattle, or walking around the streets of Houston dreaming of summer days in Milan.
One of the problems that I have with Major League Soccer, which I have stated in the past, is that the league has tried to give the sport an individual flair by placing so much emphasis on each club’s big name star, if they have one. For example, when Montreal play against Orlando, it doesn’t feel like the Montreal Impact vs Orland City Soccer Club, or even “Sin City” vs “The theme park capital of the world,” it feels like Didier Drogba vs. Kaka, because the league has marketed the game that way. It’s almost as though they have taken the individualist elements of the NBA, and translated that to soccer. Although it frustrates me to see this promoted over the culture and identity of each club, it is perfect for a character like Balotelli.
Continuing with this point, Balotelli would be one of the more marketable players in Major League Soccer. Yes, he may be a risky endorsement or figurehead to rely on for a major brand because of his unpredictability, but unlike the older european stars before him, Balotelli is young, hip, and has the potential to really make a career in this country. If he is willing to give up his pursuit of the Ballon d’Or, he could potentially become a real star and ambassador of soccer in America.
Though some may say that Balotelli has no future, and that he would be detrimental to the image of Major League Soccer, I am someone that believes in second chances (or fifth chances… I’ve lost count of Balotelli’s tally). With the right guidance and the right timing, the young Italian bad boy could take America by storm. After all, it is the land of opportunity.