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Monday March 18 2013
The Balotelli effect

Mario Balotelli now has seven goals in six games for Milan, the kind of form which suggests his signing came five months too late. Giancarlo Rinaldi wraps up Week 29. 

There are some questions we will probably never know the answer to. What is the meaning of life? How many Coaches will Maurizio Zamparini sack in his lifetime? Why did Juventus sign Nicolas Anelka? These are the kind of queries which it is hard to furnish with a satisfactory response. And, after Sunday’s Serie A clashes, we could probably add another poser to the list. What might Milan have achieved if they had signed Mario Balotelli in the summer?

It is the kind of puzzle which must have followers of the Rossoneri waking up during the night in glorious torment. How might their clash with Barcelona have panned out if their chance to tie the second leg could have fallen to Super Mario rather than young M’Baye Niang? And how many more points would they have gathered at the start of the season if they had been able to call on the former Manchester City man’s services? It is an itch which, one imagines, Adriano Galliani must feel the need to scratch on a pretty regular basis.

Of course, like trying to form an Italian government, it is a conundrum which cannot be easily solved. Would the early presence of the Azzurri striker have stunted the remarkable growth of Stephan El Shaarawy at the outset of this campaign? Could Balotelli’s feisty character actually have made those troubled opening weeks even more torturous? An answer to those questions is more elusive than Silvio Berlusconi after being issued with a sentence from the judiciary.

What we can say with certainty is that since he landed in January, the former Inter hitman has made as big an impact on Serie A as Beppe Grillo has on Italian politics. A double on Sunday was more than enough to sink poor, sickly Palermo. It was yet another five-star display.

It ensured that Max Allegri’s men stayed in the hunt for a most improbable second-place finish. They may have ultimately been humbled by Lionel Messi in Europe, but the Rossoneri look almost irresistible on the home front these days. It is a transformation which has been more surprising than Udinese deciding to keep hold of all their players in the summer transfer market.

With Juventus keeping up a breakneck pace at the top of the table, the battle behind them has become the main attraction of the rest of the season. The Bianconeri’s win over Bologna on Saturday took its time in coming and was spiced up by a minor spat over Antonio Conte’s celebrations with his own support. Regardless of whether you feel they were a bit over the top, there is little doubt he was right to believe his team had made another giant step towards the Scudetto.

That leaves a couple of Champions League spots sitting vacant behind them but, while Milan made their case for one of them with relative comfort, the same could not be said for Napoli and Fiorentina. Both sides made wonderfully heavy weather of seeing off Atalanta and Genoa respectively. Their 3-2 wins were entertaining for the neutral, but torture for their own support.

The good news for the Partenopei was that their Matador got his mojo back. With Edinson Cavani striking twice in a ding-dong battle with the Bergamaschi, there were reasons for optimism for the remainder of this campaign. Anything is possible when their high-class hitman is in the groove.

As for the Viola, they confirmed both their brilliance and their bungling. A single Alberto Aquilani goal seemed like scant reward for an impeccable first half of perfect pass-and-move football. But defensive sloppiness almost cost them dear until old boy Mattia Cassani chipped in an own-goal to allow Andrea Della Valle to indulge in a little more embarrassing-dad dancing in the stands.

Of the other European contenders, Inter got what was probably a welcome rest after their near-heroics against Tottenham when their clash with Sampdoria was postponed due to the threat of snow. There was no such respite for Lazio, however, as their trip to Torino defied the weather. Given that it ended in defeat, they might well have wished it could have been called off as well.

Their city rivals enjoyed another edition of the Francesco Totti show in Rome which allowed the Giallorossi to keep alive their hopes of finishing in at least a Europa League slot with a win over Parma. He thumped home a free-kick to take himself to second place outright in the all-time Serie A goalscoring chart. It sent the stadium announcer into ecstasy.

There was similar delirium in Sicily on Saturday evening as Catania showed they had more than enough to see off Udinese. In the process, they remained firmly in contention for an historic shot at continental football. It might be an outside chance, but they have shown themselves pretty determined to have no regrets when this season comes to an end.

In the relegation zone, Pescara’s fate was sealed a little further with home defeat to Chievo. But with Siena getting a precious point from a somewhat sleepy Sunday lunchtime clash with Cagliari, it has set up a vital encounter after the international break. Genoa take on the Tuscans in a match which is likely to go a long way to deciding who ends up in Serie B along with Palermo and Pescara in the summer. 

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Have your say...
o vik it means he isnt worth the asking price and hes a spoilt brat that plays for himself rather than the team lol lol take your milan glasses off for two minutes please tyvm
on the 20th March, 2013 at 6:42pm
@Paul

"If juve wanted him they would have got him"? Your kidding right? Juve been pushing for a striker last 12 month and you ended up with anelka and bendtner. Conclusion? No, you would not have gotten him. You have an excellent coach but as individuals there many that's easily replaced. As for Milan were missing 1 centre defender then the team is complete.
on the 20th March, 2013 at 2:47pm
no one who follows juventus would want balo hes to lazy and dont worry vik he will be lazy for you to everyone knows hes another cassano that will blow up wherever he goes so no i wouldnt want him at juventus i can think of other players a lot of other players i would sign before him and if juve wanted him they would of got him.but nah you can hgave the spoilt brat and see what happens ill sitr here and watch him implode like so amany nearly players in the game
on the 19th March, 2013 at 10:51pm
@paul

And the fact that you have something again a 18 years outstanding forward just shows your lack of knowledge. Niang is 18 years old. Give him 2 years and we'll see. He might not play for acm but the guy is pure talent. Just sad people hating on young talents
on the 19th March, 2013 at 7:16pm
@paul

Your post first of made absolutely no sense? They guy scores two goals every game r plays so far hasn't missed a pent in he's career. What more do you want? And please stop bragging about juve, if Milan wouldn't have lost 5 out of the first 8 you really think juve would sit as comfortable?? Vuinic?? Balotelli has scored just as many in 4 games hahah

The funniest part, and be honest bout this, if juve would have signed balotelli you really gonna try convincing me you be just as big hater?
on the 19th March, 2013 at 7:08pm
balo is already showing signs of what he was like at man city hes lazier than vucinec and that is saying something don't listen to vik he really is thick skinned you know vik you really need to get your glasses checked because you clearly see a different balo than the rest of us,he has proven nothing and milan are still kicking your heels behind the mighty juventus who just keep brushing all the other teams a side,yes vik the future is bright and it is definitely black and white
on the 19th March, 2013 at 5:59pm
@ viktor i wondered when your tripe would re appear seeing as you kept a low profile after your beloved team got completely schooled and as for your great niang that your raved about came in huge for you didnt he but here you are with more jibes at juve its all ifs and buts isnt it dear vik like you say better record than juve but who is top oh the silence is deafening dear vik like i could say if your aunt had a pair of ******* she would be your uncle ifs and buts vik point is juve top lol
on the 19th March, 2013 at 5:54pm
@Boss. This article is about Balotelli. Balotelli was cup tied for the champ league, and wasn't in Milan when Juve beat Milan in extra time in the coppa italia. so as a result, I made mention of the fact that Milan hadn't lost in the league since the defeat to roma in december. Pointless to talk about balotelli and the champions league this season with Milan, when he obviously couldn't take part. I hope that clarifies my point. even if it probably is too difficult for you to understand.
on the 19th March, 2013 at 2:40pm
One time in manc. city, he did even greater outcome, but then he is back to his habbit. If currently he is on fire, I got no wonder, the question is how long you can keep it run with allegri in his head. Just wait n see
on the 19th March, 2013 at 2:18pm
Half his goals are penalties. Milan has been saved by refereeing "errors" since December. Are you all kidding me?
on the 19th March, 2013 at 1:30pm
I do have my reservations about balotelli in the long term, what affect he might have over the next couple of seasons will he still be as prolific will he cause trouble etc? As for the short term anyone who thinks his arrival hasn't aided milan is clearly a inter fan despite any denials i may incur from posters replies.
on the 19th March, 2013 at 1:29pm
@dentali

So your telling me since he's arrivals he has been nothing but great? He goal average is currently highest in seria a. Educate yourself
on the 19th March, 2013 at 11:43am
@Boszzz

Undefeated in the league since dec, better record then juve. With a brand new team. I'm proud as so is my fellow rossoneris. Why don't you focus on getting a decent striker instead. Worst comes to worst, we'll let you borrow robinho. Now go away
on the 19th March, 2013 at 11:41am
Boss there is no need to be so pedantic! Or are you being deliberately obtuse? It is clear to me what Rosario mean't. Most Italian football fans are probably well aware of the Barca defeat, & the cup exit to Juve.
on the 19th March, 2013 at 10:36am
Balo is not good. he should be sent back to Inter. what a waste of $20million
on the 19th March, 2013 at 4:37am
Not a 5 star performance from Balotelli imo. He drifted in and out of the game but when he was involved his class was there to be seen. 2 Centre-Backs, Kucka, Jorginho, Saponara and Cristante and Milan SHOULD be back to where we belong!
on the 18th March, 2013 at 8:40pm
Rosario, did you say Milan are undefeated since December?

You must have knocked your head again and suffered amnesia. Let me help. Milan played last week against a Spanish team called Barcelona. Milan were absolutely thrashed and dominated 4-0. Milan were also supposed 2 play with ten men but the referee and barca felt sorry for them. Now shut up with this undefeated malarkey.
on the 18th March, 2013 at 7:03pm
I think this is clearly a glimpse of what everyone knew he could do but also i think its temporary. its timing really. he was at an alltime low at man city n hes still riding the high of being home in italy near family n friends n being the 'star' of the team at the moment. also there isnt much pressure on him yet. no CL talk or scudetto grind just a mere 3rd place finish. it remains to be seen what happens when balo has to grind- can balo even grind? or will he just skip out. it seems a holiday
on the 18th March, 2013 at 5:45pm
Given that Milan haven't lost a game since december, I think its pointless looking backwards, highlight previous mistakes or looking at the what could have been. Mario's level of all round play is still far from the level that Milan fans will ultimately expect of him. it's I'm sure also far from his own expectations. But what cannot be doubted is his ability to be clinical. this is something that Milan desperately missed before the new year. Milan also need Pazzini back ASAP.
on the 18th March, 2013 at 2:59pm
I have to give Balo credit for his displays since he has arrived in Milan. However i fear for SES who since Balo's arrival has slowly dropped off the goal scoring radar.
on the 18th March, 2013 at 12:15pm
Yepes, the inability to decide between Abbiati and Amelia and ridiculous bad luck (how have we not beaten Inter this season?). So while Allegri (and Galliani) are to credit for the turn around they were also responsible for a terrible start to the season and Balo would have only added to the complication.
on the 18th March, 2013 at 11:07am
I'm not sure signing Balo earlier would have made that big a difference and could have lead to further problems. He needed to be frozen out by Man City and given his "last chance" at Milan to turn things round. Things that did make a difference at the start of the season was Allegri's inability to pick the same starting 11. The unexplained absence of Mexes (who also has his limits), the delay in picking Zapata (who by far the best of a bad bunch of defenders), Bonera, 3-4-3 to 4-3-3, Emanuelson
on the 18th March, 2013 at 11:04am
I wouldn't call Balotelli's performance a "5 star display". He looked disinterested for a majority of the match, & was on the periphery for long spells. That said, the service into him wasn't that great. His 2nd goal was more difficult than it looked, & he did show some nice touches and flicks. I'd give him 4/5!
on the 18th March, 2013 at 10:30am

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