"Finally, I am coming home to MY CITY. Brescia, I'm here. #homecoming" Mario Balotelli announced on Instagram that he was returning to Italy with his home-town club Brescia. After a summer of conjecture about his final destination, he now has the move he wanted and probably needed.
Just how much can Super Mario offer the Rondinelle and will this be the right move for him? Now he is under the watchful eye of fiery President Massimo Cellino and back in the Italia media spotlight, what can go wrong? Buckle up, because it’s going to be fun.
One thing that cannot be overlooked is how much it has lifted Brescia before the season even starts. The former Marseille striker’s contract had expired, the French club chose not to extend it despite Balo scoring eight goals in 15 appearances for them. Before this, the 29-year-old had spent two and a half years on the Cote D’Azur with OGC Nice, where he totalled an impressive 33 goals in his first 51 appearances. Despite it looking like he had final found a home where he was happy, relationships fell apart, particularly with Patrick Vieira.
After leaving Marseille it was perhaps no surprise that his wage and reputation put off many suitors, yet the two that would compete were from very different spheres of the footballing world. He could return to the Stadio Mario Rigamonti to fulfil the dream of playing for Brescia upon their return to Serie A or alternatively go to Brazil.
The idea of Balotelli playing for Flamengo alongside the infamous Gabriel Barbosa sets the mind racing. Imagine what destruction they could cause on the pitch; imagine what destruction they could cause at carnival time. Even so, the best move that never happened (and the best documentary never to have happened) now lies in the past.
Brescia are no newcomers to the scene of career revivals, just think of those who passed through here and rediscovered their mojo, such as Roberto Baggio, Pep Guardiola, Luca Toni and Gheorghe Hagi.
What is key for Brescia is that this move is not just one that wins hearts and minds. Balotelli is still a very good player and his aforementioned record with both Marseille and OGC Nice speaks for itself. OGC did not want to let him go, but the debacle with the ownership and his increasing frustrations with the Coach saw it come to an unfortunate end.
In fact, his time there was a professional one where he felt at home by his own admission and enjoyed the ‘big fish, small pond’ tag. The tinderbox of Marseille also looked like it may be a bridge too far, but once again he was professional and it was only the club’s failure to qualify for the Champions League that forced them to let him go, as they could not afford him.
Le Rondinelle cannot take much from pre-season, but for the record it has been fairly good, although the exit to Perugia in the Coppa can be seen as a blessing rather than a disappointment. Whilst everyone is surely dreaming of watching Sandro Tonali ping disgracefully accurate passes to the feet of Balotelli, as he then finishes with gusto, the reality will be much harsher. Brescia will be up against it, and whilst the likes of Alfredo Donnarumma will offer a good partner for Mario, their relatively young team will have to look to the old heads of Daniele Dessena, Daniele Gastaldello and Mario to help them out.
So, there we have it, Balotelli is back and somewhere he can invest in. If the striker can offer as much as he did at OGC Nice, then Brescia have made one of the signings of the summer, but this maybe a little too excitable for now. Coach Eugenio Corini now has a grenade to add to his arsenal and it is much needed. He just needs to make sure it goes off after he releases it.