I’M going to let you in on one of my (many, very, very many) idiosyncrasies: I like order. Specifically, I like order in terms of dates, in terms of history. I like things to tie up, to be neat and tidy and…well, orderly.
I used to have this history teacher, let’s call him Mr Roarke — as that was his name — ( it’s okay, he was a blue, probably still is, no way he’s reading this) who always liked to point out that he loved the way that any nineteenth century British Prime Minister died shortly after losing office as it kept history tidy. Doesn’t work so well in the twentieth and twenty first centuries unfortunately. We’d have been rid of *her* quicker if it did. Still, you get the idea — neat, tidy, story told, all tied up.
I like coincidence, serendipity, synchronicity. I like the things that are clearly meant to coincide. I love the fact that I can tell you the date I met the girl that I’d marry as we married on that very date four years later (romantic as well). I love the fact that our eldest son was born on his granddad’s birthday. Meant to be. Obviously meant to happen that way. It’s great when dates give history a sense of meaning, of purpose, of importance.
Can you see where this rambling’s going yet?
Mario. One year ago today, we signed Mario Balotelli. Today, he’s gone. Well…gone-ish. Sort of, kind of. We’ll come back to that. The idea that Mario was with us for exactly one year just seems right, seems like the proper way to end things — yeah, yeah, if we have actually ended it, coming back to that — seems neat, seems tidy, planned, organised. Seems like all the things that his time at the club wasn’t. In any way whatsoever.
I’ll admit it — I kind of have to, it’s in print and if you were bothered to you could probably Google it and throw it back at me — I was all for the idea of signing Mario Balotelli.
(Sidebar – I actually have Googled it, quite dismayed to find the most famous Ian Salmon is an Australian rules footballer; I pine for the days when it was the Jamaican stand up comic. Also annoyed that the third article you find contains a reference to ‘Ancelotti catching a salmon in Vancouver’, like a self-inflicted fish joke).
In the wake of losing Luis and after watching the seeming sterility of the first couple of games last season, I wanted some madness for the team, some unpredictability, some chaos. Be careful what you wish for and all that. Go on, I thought, sign Mario; it’ll be a laugh.
It wasn’t, was it? We didn’t even get the rockets set off in the bathroom or the driving round dressed as Santa giving money to the homeless. We didn’t get the going the supermarket for food but coming back with a trampoline and a train set. We got none of the fun. Crucially, we also got none of the football.
There’s this myth; the myth that Mario Balotelli is a major talent just waiting to explode with the right guidance. We’ve all believed it at some point. Brendan clearly believed it — believed that he was the man that could tame Mario. And us — okay, me, I’ll talk for me, nobody else on this one — we, sorry, I, went for it. “Yeah, you know what, he might do this. Look at what he did with Luis last season; lad’s on the verge of going to Arsenal so he bombs him out, makes him train with the kids, sorts it, gets him back on board and he gives us *that*. Yeah, he can do this, it’ll be great.”
He couldn’t. It wasn’t.
I should have known really. I listened to the sensible side of my brain, whispering on the day we signed him: “Think, just think — when we played City you were always relieved when Mario came on because he was never any threat. It’s going to be that again.” I ignored that voice, that horrible, smug, reasonable bit of me that talks sense and takes away all the fun. “It’ll be fine, it’ll be better than fine, it’ll be great, sod it, it’ll be fantastic, we’re going to win everything.”
His debut was good. Let’s give him that, shall we? Looked good next to Danny then Hodge broke Danny and Mario had nobody else to play with and he just wandered round looking lost. For the rest of the season.
I could list all the things that were wrong with Mario; the complete lack of any tactical understanding, the lack of ability to read a game, of any kind of partnership with any of his team-mates. We’ve all seen Simon Hughes’ fascinating piece in The Independent by now, all aware of the idea that he didn’t know his team-mates names by Christmas time (even a player with a really short first name), all aware that he was disruptive in training sessions. We all know the ‘own goal from the halfway line in training’ story. There’s no real need to repeat them.
What I will say is this: I’ve no ill will to Mario Balotelli as a person — he’s not El-Hadji Djouf. He’s done me no wrong. I just don’t think he’s a very good footballer. I think the myth that he’s this rare talent, this maverick genius, is just that; a myth. There’s no real proof of it. There’s no real proof that he’s ever going to come good on any potential that he might possess. And, yes, I AM taking into account that his goal record prior to coming to Liverpool is basically verging on one in two but I’m balancing it out with the fact that I’ve seen him at close quarters now. For a year. An entire year.
It could be an attitude thing, it could be that things came so easily to him so early in his career that he doesn’t see any need to try and can’t see that there’s anything wrong with what he’s doing. Better men than I have tried to analyse the workings of Mario’s mind and failed.
Here we are though; one year down the line and another club has decided that they will be the ones to finally harness the maverick magic of Mario. Strangely, it’s the club we bought him from a year ago. AC Milan are willing to take Mario back, willing to attempt to tame him or at least harness the madness more capably than we were able. They’re not confident enough to pay a fee for this privilege; a one-year loan deal with no compulsory purchase clause. There’s a possibility that he could well be back at Anfield in a year’s time. To be loaned out again in an almost Aquilani-esque manner obviously but still back at Anfield.
What does Mario think of all this?
“I always had Milan in my heart and always had hope that I would return one day. Will I end my career here? I just have to start to work and have a good year. I’m looking forward to training and proving my worth. I have a lot of motivation but I just have to work and not speak.”
Good luck with that Mario. Training? Working and not speaking? Good luck. No, seriously, good luck. I genuinely hope it works out for you, I do. A year was enough, thanks.
One year, not too long in history. Neat, tidy, orderly. And hopefully over.
Pics: David Rawcliffe-Propaganda Photo
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I wanted this move to work out. I really did. Mario finds a home among other discarded waifs and strays and shows all the doubters wrong.
I should’ve known better.
Although I really couldn’t believe the number of people willing to indulge him by saying that he needed a partner upfront to be fully effective. Pull the other one. This isn’t the ’90s. If you are a centre forward and you can’t play upfront on your own, then you’re not good enough to be in a side competing for trophies and Europe.
The strange thing is Milan don’t even really need him. Having decided they wanted him gone, I really don’t know why they’ve decided 12 months down the line to have him back.
Firstly, very cheap, the strain he put on the club financially is one of the main reasons they needed him out. Secondly, Have you seen where they ended up last season? Back where they were before he got there. Mid table. After his contribution fired them into European football the first time I think its quite obvious what they are hoping for this time around.
The call for a second striker is incorrect. Its more about having support upfront. A lot of strikers struggle when that isn’t available. Center backs only have one threat to think of. Only the top dogs don’t struggle. Theres a run he made against Manchester which I wish he had done more of (stunning pass to play him in, excellent weight, excellent direction, just stunning). Thats one of my few grievances, he would have had a bigger impact had he made more of that sort of run.
“I think the myth that he’s this rare talent, this maverick genius, is just that; a myth. There’s no real proof of it.”. Whenever I see the word myth I know instantly that a person hasn’t actually seen that much of Balotelli. By the way, me saying what I’m about to say has nothing to do with Rodgers at all, so shove off with that “agenda” crap. I’ve seen Balotelli for a long long time, my best friend is massive Inter fan and he was mouthing off about Balotelli since I could remember. At 19 he was doing stuff that was simply amazing. Got shoved out wide to accomodate Zlatan and he was impressive. Think Sterling is a talent? Try find full length videos of Balotelli at 19. Better crosser, far stronger, better dribbler, better passer better striker of the ball not quite as quick, sure. but there is a reason he was also Golden Boy. At Liverpool, I didn’t like some of his movement, i didn’t like his goal scoring record.but that was my only real grievance. People just expected another Suarez to come in and carry a lagging team on his shoulders. Thats your own fault.
The point is, using the word “myth” is incorrect. You chose to say you’ve seen “a full year” worth of Balotelli when the truth is you’ve seen just south of 10% of his career. Just say “he wasn’t outstanding at Liverpool” and leave it at that.
What utter crap are you spouting? People did not expect another Suarez!!!! anyone who has ever watched either play would never expect that in a million years, what they expected though was someone who gave a shit and put in a bit of effort .
Who cares what he was doing when he was 19, he’s’s 25 and a complete waste of space.
Firstly, don’t ever reply to one of my comments if you’re gonna be an ass about it. If you read my post you might have seen my main objection was that someone who has seen so little (he himself admits it in his own special way) of Balotelli felt it was his place to talk about myths.
Secondly, when I used the word “people”, I wasn’t speak about all “people”, so if you weren’t one of those people, kudos to you. But go read the complaints, most of them were about him not bringing the attributes Suarez brought to the table in one way or another. One of those attributes being to make things happen when nobody else in the team was doing a damn thing. Maybe you didn’t see any of that, I’m not debating, I’m simply telling you what I saw.
i will reply to any post on the public section of a fans forum i feel like you pretentious twat. The only ass is you if you are unable to understand that your average Liverpool fan does not need you to explain what we are seeing when looking at Balotelli. We are more than capable of working it out for ourselves … and it doesn’t take watching him from 19 to work it out.
To be in a position to label someones talent a myth, you have to have seen at the very least more than a mere ten percent of his career.
I tell you about posts I saw with my own eyes. If you could post screenshots on here I would. If I could show how many people have shared a parallel view to mine I would. But yeah, you the representetive of “the average Liverpool fans” has spoken.
Look at the aggression and arrogance in both your replies, look at how you start both of them, yet you are surprised when I tell you to rather leave me in peace. People like you are the reason why the term “keyboard warrior” exist, you are perfectly safe talking to me in this manner behind a screen. Why do you insist on behaving like an ass?
I always had my reservations, but once he was here I tried my best to sing along in hopes of getting him inspired. But really, the lingering image for me will always be the shot of the fan in the stands who was holding him back from a certain red card.
That really sums it up. The fans trying to collectively will him into following his infantile instincts, to grow up and learn how to make it not about him.
But he simply cannot get beyond the playground id. Blasting absurd shots from distance, hoping to be a hero but coming off a clown. Which is ultimately, sadly, what he remains.
After years of humiliating indulgence of Suarez’s contretemps, few of us had the stomach for another sideshow – least of all a sideshow that can’t find the back of the net.
But, in the end, our success in 13/14 and any success we could hope for this season will come, due to a massive financial disadvantage, from our whole being more than the sum of our parts. And that requires massive focus and buy-in. Balotelli not only failed on this count, he actively disrupted the squad.
He needed to go and he exits not to tearful applause, but to a chorus of relieved sighs.
Would have been good if he’d have gotten one game in his preferred position. The one he played in for City and Italy. You know, as a deep lying false 10 half trequartista or whatever the hell it’s called. With a mobile nine up top to feed from and to.
It was so obvious after a month that he’d never perform up top, the way Brendan insisted on playing him. Pretty sure that was all politics anyway.
Sorry Ian, but I’m mildly disappointed in you for repeating the ‘myth’ meme: do you really want to go down as the man who gave Joseph Barton, philosopher king, the oxygen of publicity? Mario’s not a myth, he has talent, but he wasn’t right for us, and I do wonder if he’ll ever be right: the problems are, as many of us have noted, in his head, not his feet. He appears more interested in his personal battles on the pitch than in contributing to the team effort. It’s a shame, really, a great talent is likely to remain unfulfilled. I’m not sure Brendan managed him well, or got the best out of him, but who has? I was briefly excited by the signing, given Brendan’s ability to get the maximum out of players previously considered damaged goods, but my lingering memory of him at City is of his loitering near the left touchline looking totally disinterested in the game going on around him. I’m just not sure he gets that it’s a team game.
unused talent is almost a proverb, (to quote someone or other) the only thing that matters is what did you do with it? in this case not much.
Although I do commend the comment on *her*. A thousand times over!
Go on you Ian for admitting you wanted him, I’m sure there are many who whooped with joy ( I certainly remember the pod when he signed was full of people delightedly exclaiming “He’s mad him, he’s mad, we want mad, Brendan wants mad, we were mad last season, lets just be mad again”)
Sadly he wasn’t mad, interested, particularly arsed or motivated by anyone to do anything, which in the cold light of reality, should have been known a year ago and the deal never started.
Ah well at least he’s gone for now unless he becomes another Borini!
Good I mean not Go!!!?? It’s early! Sorry
If Balotelli, with his talent, his physique, etc. came even close to having the desire, the work-ethic, etc of Borini, he’d be world-class.
Add game intelligence and I’d say that’s about right.
I meant in that we can’t get rid of Borini rather than any sort of in game/technical/attitude issues.
He’s a fabulous player simply not used to his best here.
A fab player has it upstairs, in his chest and bootlaces.