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Tuesday September 24 2019
Balotelli opens Brescia era

After 1,228 days, Mario Balotelli will play in Serie A again tonight when Brescia host Juventus, so Emmet Gates wonders what version of the striker we’ll see.

Mario Balotelli is back, again. Three years after his last spell in Serie A with Milan that ended in a solitary goal from 20 games, Italy’s prodigal son has returned. This homecoming is a little different, as he’s returned to where the Balotelli story began, to Brescia.

Whilst similar words have echoed before, this really is the last chance saloon for Balotelli. Half a decade of fluctuating productivity whilst bouncing around various clubs in Italy, England and France has done little to improve his waning reputation. Mario hasn’t been super in a long time.

Balotelli is conscious of the fact that time is very much of the essence. It doesn’t seem that long ago that he was once regarded as Italy’s next great hitman. A Champions League winner at 19, he seemingly had the world at his feet, and we all know what happened in the intervening years.

Sitting on 36 caps, many believed Balotelli would’ve achieved double the amount by the time of his 29th birthday. Yet since the debacle at the 2014 World Cup in which the very worst of Balotelli’s character emerged, he’s won a paltry three caps. Even these were due more to the ascension of mentor Roberto Mancini to the Azzurri throne than any meritocratic form on Balotelli’s part. He didn’t play a single game for Italy in nearly four years.

With Euro 2020 on the horizon, Balotelli knows a solid season with The Little Swallows will almost guarantee him a seat at the table. Whilst he was persona non grata under Antonio Conte and Gian Piero Ventura’s Italy reigns, Balotelli has admitted that with Mancini in charge, the onus is now firmly on him.

The move is reminiscent of almost two decades ago, when Roberto Baggio made the same move in September 2000. Baggio, like Balotelli, was out of contract, after a disastrous spell at Inter had cost him his place in the national team. And like Balo, Baggio had rejected the attractive glances of exotic destinations in order to remain not just in the public consciousness, but also in the mind of then Italy boss Giovanni Trapattoni ahead of the 2002 World Cup.

Baggio stayed for four years and ultimately became the club’s greatest player. He became the leader of the locker room and added yet another chapter to a career that was almost abandoned too many times. Ultimately Baggio never made it to another major tournament, yet this era of the club is defined as ‘Baggio’s Brescia’.

Balotelli now finds himself in similar circumstances. Indeed, the stage is almost set for Balotelli to mimic Baggio in a way, the chance to become a locker room leader and to harness his experiences, both good and bad, to the betterment of a side that is for the most part lacking in top-flight familiarity.

The signing of Balotelli is a major coup for Brescia, regardless of his current standing in the game. Massimo Cellino is taking full advantage of the new tax breaks in Italy that are designed to stop the ‘brain drain’ of the country’s greatest minds and to entice Italians to return. Balotelli’s €3m net salary would’ve cost Brescia double that had he signed a year ago. Fiorentina have also made use of the new law in bringing Franck Ribery to Florence.

The Balotelli stardust has the potential, should Brescia avoid relegation this season, to bring in further stars. Pep Guardiola famously chose to join Brescia in 2001 because he wanted to play alongside Baggio. Whilst Balotelli doesn’t possess the Baggio magnetism, his presence wouldn’t hurt the club’s pulling power.

With Mancini now casting a permanent eye over proceedings at the Stadio Mario Rigamonti, and with his Italy side finding it difficult to score goals amidst the inconsistencies of Andrea Belotti and Ciro Immobile, the pressure is now on Balotelli’s shoulders to remind everyone that when he’s focused, he’s the best they have.

Can Mario be super again?

Have your say...
I think everybody is being quite negative about Ballotelli.....when he played in England he caused a lot of problems for defenders.....he was very underestimated in my opinion.
on the 1st October, 2019 at 1:42pm
I like Mario, but he will never be in Baggio's league.
on the 27th September, 2019 at 4:18pm
Roby Baggio was a true legend, pure masterclass. Balotelli can't be even compared with Baggio. It is disrespect to Baggio.
Remember 90, 94, even 98 - his goals and tricks, his philosophy...
on the 26th September, 2019 at 1:17pm
NEVER .. EVER .. write Baggio & Balotelli in the same article or even a sentence again. EVER !
And why bother writing or publishing a blog on this washed-up player anyway? One who thinks, or thought, himself on the same level with Messi (and I'm not even a fan of Messi) ! Balo's been overrated from the moment Mourinho played him.
on the 25th September, 2019 at 10:13pm
I think I need to be the person to bring some perspective to this ridiculous article.
So for the younger readers who may only know the name Roberto Baggio through parents or just clips from youtube what the writer of this article has done has basically said Balotelli and Messi are the same; yes, ludicrous as this sounds it has the same effect on us old enough to have seen Baggio and saw this genius in action.
Balotelli is literally the luckest man in the world, basically paid for nothing!
on the 24th September, 2019 at 10:43pm
"..last spell in Serie A with Milan that ended in a solitary goal from 20 games.."
The opening line should have been enough to stop you writing any further.
Why are we still wasting our time on this guy. He is a toxic waste of space and I wish he would just vanish. We have waited years for this so called talent to be seen and nothing, maybe just maybe the answer as to why we haven't seen it is because there was none to begin with?!?
Never mention this mans name in a sentence as Baggio!!!
on the 24th September, 2019 at 3:51pm
Interesting lack of replies to this post. There was a time when Balotelli posts would get the most replies. People are utterly sick of him now. Until he shows a sustained period of form and determination, it’s all just noise. I finally gave up on him a couple of years ago which is considered seriously late compared to the average. What a horrific waste of talent. His mind just wasn’t there. His attitude has been completely against Italian values.
on the 24th September, 2019 at 3:49pm
A joke of a player. Will probably be sent off within the next 3 games. As much as I hate Rubentus, Brescia won't touch the ball and it means he will have to run and work for the team, something he has never done in his sad career. Over rated and over priced. A waste of space.
on the 24th September, 2019 at 3:44pm
I get the point, but seems a bit unfair to compare Balo w Baggio. Still overall I agree, this could be a good move for him, but I thought the same when he first joined Nice....
on the 24th September, 2019 at 3:41pm
There may be parallels between Baggio & Balotelli with regards to their eventual destination, but there is a world of difference as to how they got there. Injuries & coaches who seemed insistent on shackling Baggio's talent led to him finding refuge at Brescia. It was never a case of a lack of hunger, devotion, & professionalism like it is with Balo, as it was with Cassano. Even if Balotelli does do well there is no guarantee that he will be a fit for Mancini's pressing game.
on the 24th September, 2019 at 3:30pm
There may be parallels between Baggio & Balotelli with regards to their eventual destination, but there is a world of difference as to how they got there. Injuries & coaches who seemed insistent on shackling Baggio's talent led to him finding refuge at Brescia. It was never a case of a lack of hunger, devotion, & professionalism like it is with Balo, as it was with Cassano. Even if Balotelli does do well there is no guarantee that he will be a fit for Mancini's pressing game.
on the 24th September, 2019 at 3:30pm
'whilst'...is that erudite while for someone who has never read anything written with erudition?
on the 24th September, 2019 at 11:56am

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