As Mario Balotelli exited Milanello in his Ferrari, it ended another episode in the drama series that has been the footballer’s career so far.
His expected departure to Liverpool for a fee believed to be around €20m will be yet another opportunity for the striker to prove that he can be a consistent striker for a top club.
However, it should not be a move to go through. For Balotelli, it could be wonderful opportunity to play in a supportive city that notoriously loves anti-heroes, and he would find himself in a much less hostile and less racially ignorant League. For the Rossoneri, however, it represents bad business from almost every angle you look at it.
Financially, Milan have made a loss on a player they signed for around €23m 17 months ago, when the player was leaving a side that had Carlos Tevez, Edin Dzeko and Sergio Aguero on their books. The idea that the Diavolo, whose back-up striker is Giampaolo Pazzini, can receive less money for the 24-year-old than a side that didn’t really need him is absurd.
To compound the issue, he is being sold to a club that has just made €78m from selling Luis Suarez. Could Milan not have asked for more? David Luiz was sold by Chelsea, a side that didn’t play the Brazilian regularly, for €50m. Adriano Galliani, master negotiator, couldn’t squeeze €30m from a wealthy Premier League side? It’s another poor piece of business that has cast a once great club under unwanted scrutiny.
Since selling Andriy Shevchenko in 2006, the Rossoneri have gotten into a habit of selling their most marketable player at the soonest available opportunity. Ricardo Kaka followed in 2009, before Zlatan Ibrahimovic left and took Thiago Silva with him in 2012. Balotelli is just the next player to arrive in a flurry of PR and leave shortly after. Stephan El Shaarawy may want to move into a hotel, just in case.
On the pitch, it’s difficult to fathom too. The striker is comfortably the most talented player Milan had on their side, and who they would have heavily relied on in attempts to rescale the Serie A table and bring their side closer to a Champions League berth. Milan’s highest earner is now Philippe Mexes, a sad fact that illuminates the lack of world class ability that Coach Filippo Inzaghi can call upon. Even with Balotelli, Milan have several significant holes that needed to be filled before they can be considered as a Serie A contender. Without him, another gap in the squad is created.
Galliani now has two weeks to find a replacement for Balotelli, as well as maybe bring in the right-winger and midfielder Milan also needs to be considered competitive this upcoming season. Not only is it a tall order, it is one that is difficult to accomplish given the meagre financial compensation Balotelli’s sale looks likely to bring in.
His arrival at Milan saw him billed as the club’s star striker for the next decade. Alongside El Shaarawy, a fellow Rossoneri fan, the club had a front pairing of quality and popularity. That it took Mario under 18 months to decide that playing for the club he supported as a child wasn’t worth it is a revealing thought process.
The Diavolo’s decision to once again take the quick offer of cash over the chance to build something meaningful is yet another tough pill for fans to swallow. The club is now in an all too familiar state of rebuilding. Whether they are truly willing to so is another question entirely.