Okay, I’m going to say it, I don’t think Mario Balotelli is that good at football. I like him as a player because of the hype, uncertainty, and media attention that he brings to each and every game he plays in. But based on footballing ability alone, I’m struggling with him. I hear all the time statements along the lines of: ‘Balotelli has the talent to be one of the best players of his generation but none of the hard work, commitment and mental focus that is required to get there.’ Well, yeah, he definitely doesn’t have the hard work, commitment or mental focus – I watched him play FC Basel last night, and as per usual, Mr Neville got it spot on in the post-match analysis: “he looked disinterested”. In fact, to describe his performance as underwhelming would be very generous to the lad. It has to be said though, people have come to expect this idol attitude and lack of grit and determination from Mario, and it’s kind of agreed within the football community that he’s generally lazy; but you know what, I don’t think he has the talent to get away with it.
I get that he’s not Luis Suarez, in fact in terms of on the field play there couldn’t be a bigger contrast, but he should offer more than what he is doing for a Liverpool team that recently paid £16 million for his services. It’s kind of weird watching him play; the lad seems to perform on his own agenda, his own timeframe and almost entirely removed from any managerial guidance. When the opposition are in possession, he may as well be sat in the dugout. And I know that strikers aren’t judged on their ability to defend and track back (unless your Dirk Kuyt) but they should act as more than just a token gesture.
But in spite of this, football fans still rate him for what he can do when his team are in possession and attacking. But from I’ve seen from Mario, other than the odd screamer every now and then, he doesn’t offer much in that department either. And to be fair, you’d expect one or two to fly in when you’re having more attempts from outside the box than Charlie Adam circa 2010. I personally think his first touch is sloppy, and because of this is hold-up play is worse than it should be for a bloke of his stature. I think his movement off the ball is sub-par; he gives the ball away with alarming regularity and is dispossessed countless times throughout the 90 minutes. But worst of all, when things aren’t working out for his team he goes completely invisible. In big games when his team are behind and they need their stars to shine (like last night), throughout his career he has lacked the qualities to grab his team by the scruff of their neck and drag them forward. And that’s what you need from your so-called world class players, that’s why you pay millions and millions for talent; so they can change games and make the difference when the team needs them. Mario, simply doesn’t do that.
Anyway, there’s definitely an aura about Mario Balotelli; whenever he’s involved in a game, he’s the focal point, he’s who people are talking about, and as I said before, I love him for it! All these off the field antics he’s been involved in: from allegedly handing out 20 pound notes to every man and his dog in Manchester, to racking up 10 grands worth of parking fines, to setting off fireworks inside his house – they create a buzz for the fans and media. But they also detract from his ability on the pitch, and it’s to Balotelli’s advantage as they create a facade that cloaks his short-comings as a footballer. A myth if you will, a myth that he is a world class player, because from what I’ve seen he doesn’t have the attitude or the ability to cut it at the very top level.