Tuesday April 29 2014
Mario should still be Plan A

Mario Balotelli is attracting criticism and debate for his role with club and country. Sam Lewis assesses if it is fair or not.

“Milan have given up on trying to deal with Balotelli. The only one benefiting from the situation is Balotelli’s bank account,” Italian pundit Giancarlo Marocchi told media following Milan’s 2-0 loss to Roma, a game in which Mario Balotelli featured but you’d be forgiven for not knowing.

Marocchi’s view is one that is shared by an increasing section of Italian media and football fans around the peninsula, representing a growing impatience with Balotelli’s mannerisms, mood and performance.

The calls for patience from Balotelli supporters grow quieter, often greeted with rolled eyes and elongated sighs – at 23, can Mario Balotelli still be considered a ‘prospect’?

Although a phenomenon, Lionel Messi was a Ballon d’Or winner at 22, while Cesc Fabregas captained Arsenal at the same age. In the modern game where 17, 18 and 19-year-old players are breaking into the first teams of huge clubs around the world with maturity and ethic, 23 now brings with it a different connotation. This trend means that Balotelli, who once may have protected by his age until at least 25 – is now left exposed by the exploits of his generation.

Following the criticism levelled at Balotelli following his performance against Roma that saw the forward replaced with nearly 30 minutes remaining, having not taken a shot in the previous 60, the striker’s outburst in the Sky Sport Italia studio has turned concerns over his attitude into genuine arguments against his selection for the Italian national team for the summer’s World Cup.

Reports are growing that Italy Coach Cesare Prandelli is considering a ‘Plan B’ in light of Balotelli’s recent actions in case the forward isn’t selected for the trip to Brazil, which includes - rather ironically - placing Antonio Cassano as a ‘false 9’ in the forward’s stead and surrounding the 31-year-old with wide attackers, a tactical reshuffle from the Giuseppe Rossi-Balotelli partnership that was considered cast-iron first choice in previous months.

The striker’s work-ethic has been openly criticised as has the forward’s attitude and maturity, but is the vitriol directed at the controversial striker still mainly based on reputation?

With 14 goals and five assists in 23 Serie A games, Balotelli’s strike-rate is better than a goal every other game, the same amount as Juventus striker Fernando Llorente, whose goal tally also came in more games, 26, along with fewer assists, three.

Ill-discipline is another item of discussion with the young striker, yet the forward has only picked up three yellow cards since Clarence Seedorf’s appointment as head Coach, a period that has also brought no red cards, eight goals and two assists in 16 games.

Balotelli is expected to carry the worst Milan side in the Silvio Berlusconi era, respond to constant criticism from pundits and sometimes racial insults from opposing fans. Balotelli didn’t take a shot against Roma on Friday night, but Milan didn’t have over 40 per cent possession either. As talented as he is, Balotelli can’t play several positions at once.

If Milan have indeed ‘given up’ on Mario Balotelli, then they do so at their own peril. To let go of Balotelli would be to let a talent of immeasurable size leave a club where talent is at a thinner premium than at any point in its recent history.  Meanwhile, Italy would leave a man whose goals sent the Azzurri to a Euro 2012 final at home, while trusting a 31-year-old forward with an even longer history of fall-outs and wasted talent than Balotelli lead the Azzurri line?

Despite the recent polemics, Balotelli’s reign as the most talented striker available to Italy remains indisputable. What is additionally indisputable is that it is still not known what Balotelli can achieve when surrounded by talent as the focal point of a side’s attack.

We still really don’t know whether Mario Balotelli is worth ‘dealing with’. Cesare Prandelli would be wise to find out in summer.

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Have your say...
@ mm and Jenkins.
The only tragedy is you guys talkin rubbish on this blog, he's going to Brazil and he will start up front so stop crying and get used to it, don't give up your day job boys...
on the 6th May, 2014 at 10:12am
Well said jenkins
on the 5th May, 2014 at 9:48pm
Balo this, Balo that, ad if he is Meazza reincarnated. The striker Balotelli, this little pet puppy of Prandelli, is clearly protected and wanted by Giancarlo Abete, president of the Italian Football Federation, the employer of this inept coach. So, he will go to Brazil. Yes, he is depriving strikers like Immobile or Cerci, hell even Quagliarella, an opportunity to shine (and score!). And where are Cigarini, Flor, Verrati, Astori, Totti? What an absolute tragedy.
on the 5th May, 2014 at 3:57pm

lol yes mate, give the spot to cassano over balo. That makes total sense. lotd (laugh of the day)
on the 1st May, 2014 at 6:11pm
It's a shame that the polarisation of Balotolli's inclusion has caused an otherwise sensible and friendly forum to become unpleasant!

Love him or loathe him, he is tried and tested at the highest levels and despite his attitude problems he has to on the plane and on the team sheet with a fit G. Rossi.
on the 1st May, 2014 at 5:40am
Balotelli needs to go, he is a ticking time bomb bringing him to the World Cup, and that can crash a team instantly. I want - Immobile, Cerci, Cassano, Rossi and either Berardi or Destro, with me slightly leaning towards Destro.

Don't need Balotelli with his attitude and his slacking off not one bit. Immobile & Cerci have scored a combined 33 goals this season, let these two work together with the likes of Cassano, as Cassano has great passing and can create plays.
on the 1st May, 2014 at 1:46am
Wow, it seems to have got all heated in here, accusations of racism and lack of tactical understanding, have I wandered into a gazzetta dello sport and tuttosport get together?

For me it´s simple: Balotelli, talented, in some way troubled but on the right day can put the ball in the net. As a fan it does annoy me that Balo seems to play without any joy or pride.

Destro for me is a viable option and I would like to see him alongside Rossi. Cassano? For me it´s a meh and a shrug.
on the 30th April, 2014 at 8:44pm
Why does he waste so much god given ability when there are those of us who would have killed for just a sliver of it? Does he not realize how blessed and how uniquely gifted he is? I prey he shows up in Brazil and puts on a show for all the right reasons but only time will tell.
on the 30th April, 2014 at 7:10pm

Well the sad part is when it matters for the national he better then any other striker italy has. For Milan, well that's another story.
on the 30th April, 2014 at 3:50pm
Yes he scores goals, you said it yourself, if I'm not mistaken that is what a striker is supposed to do, his performances for the azzurri have always been good that's why cp will pick him ahead of any other striker, immobile has had a good season and should go as back up for balo, destro is unproven at national level he had a run in the team when balo was injured after euro 2012 and he didn't do squat, it's not just about having a good season but being proven at the top level
on the 30th April, 2014 at 3:45pm
@ Fantantonio Did you just say Cassano works hard? Are you talking about Antonio Cassano or some other Cassano who works like trooper?

@ Marc F Balo has actually had no issues with any manager at Milan except once questioning Seedorf's decision to sub him on Friday. In reality the only manager who he has had issues with him is Mancini who also had issues with other players. Mourinho jokes about him but has said he would sign him again.
on the 30th April, 2014 at 3:34pm

Balo is far from our #1 striker. His performances have been far from decent this season. Yes he has scored goals but his general play is poor along with attitude. We have destro and immobile who should be up front, they deserve it
on the 30th April, 2014 at 3:02pm
In the previous months I believed Prandelli should take Balotelli to Brazil and not start him, but I still don't believe he deserves much playing time or to even go given his performances. Prandelli stresses his code of professionalism, even though Balo does not fight as much anymore he still acts very immature and is far from a team player. When we have players such as Destro,Immobile, Cerci, Insigne and Casssano who put in effort and act professionally should be having the spots over Balo.
on the 30th April, 2014 at 2:59pm
@Al Dino, still fail to see your logic. When has Balo ever shown behavior issues when with the Azzurri? Apart from a foolish yellow for taking his shirt off after scoring a goal I don't think there has been an issue that I can recall. He's by far no angel but you talk about his issues with his club teams. I'm more than certain that most of the "issues" come from journalists that need to create drama to hold on to their jobs. So again, what's the issue with taking a talented striker?
on the 30th April, 2014 at 1:06pm
Yes 1/10 Anonymous well done. You do realise if he got 1/10 he'd never actually score? I know he only scores pens....If you want to have a sensible discussion about Balo than its hardly a good start if you compare him to players like Borini and Pelle and give him clearly ridiculous ratings. This is so boring. Can we stop talking about him? He's going to the World Cup whether you like or not so move along and think about something else like climate change or something.
on the 30th April, 2014 at 12:20pm
There is much more to being a footballer than sheer technique and physical strength:

- work rate
- team work
- off the ball movement
- tactical intelligence

On a scale of 1-10 Balotelli scores a 1 at best in all of the above. These characteristics can be acquired through training and hard work, but Balotelli is too lazy and thick to do anything about it.
This is why he will never be a world class player and why the likes of Pelle' and Borini are far more deserving of a place in the World Cup.
on the 30th April, 2014 at 10:06am
Personally I believe that Balo is a very high profile black Italian footballer. This is more the reason to get behind him because of what this represents. While he's certainly open to criticism due to certain character flaws when that criticism is not back up by stats, when he's constantly misrepresented in the media and when he's subjected to constant abuse it does beg the question. Why do so many people want him to fail?
on the 30th April, 2014 at 9:05am
@ Al Dino I didn't call you racist. You seem to have difficulty accepting statistics in black and white (excuse the pun) but I accept you probably dislike Balo because of his personality. Ronaldo suffered from the same issues for years. He had to break records before he could earn respect and its still through gritted teeth. Having said that Balo has had to deal with racism. From racists chants to a national newspaper thinking its ok to compare him to King Kong.
on the 30th April, 2014 at 9:03am
I hope Balo does well in Brazil so that Milan can recover as much of the 25 mn euros spent on him. He just isn't committed enough to play as the leading man of a team. He wasted sitters against Roma. I'd rather have someone like Paloschi in his place who is not as gifted as Balo but twice as committed.
on the 30th April, 2014 at 3:17am
Balo 4 Azzurri and hopefully make it 5 for the Azzurri. I expect to see play against Ireland on the 31st May @fulhamfc. He's hungry for the biggest stage in football CP will take him to the WC.

Forza Azzurri. ****
on the 29th April, 2014 at 10:33pm
@Maldini's Heir, Yes you did go too far with your comment. Calling me racist or implying it with your comment without knowing me is wrong on many levels. I have been commenting on these blogs for a while and have had immense respect for your point of view but tonight you have lost my respect. Also there is a big difference between scoring from open play and scoring from a penalty.... So let's not try to sugarcoat his goal scoring statistics.

@Marc F, Just like Maldini's heir you seem to have issues reading. Never in my comments will you find me disputing Balo's talent. Also i never said he shouldn't go to Brazil. However as you have issues seeing my point, I will explain it. My issue with Balo, isn’t about his talent, nor is it about him simply scoring from a penalty. My issue with Balo is his behavior. When you think about how many chances he has gotten from Man. City, to Inter, to Milan with different coaches and different players the simple excuse of he is playing for a badly setup team isn’t cutting it for me. Include in the issue the simple fact that the guy only has a good scoring record because he is a good penalty taker and you get a player that is not applying him self. A Lazy player that is making a millions being someones role model and he behaves like a 12 year old. I do hope this explains it a little better.
on the 29th April, 2014 at 9:51pm
He deserves to go to Brazil ahead of all those strikers, his record for Italy speaks for itself, and last time I checked penalties do count, why would cp drop him when he's done what he's done for Italy, to say that he's a waste of space is ridiculous, he's proven at the top level the others aren't yet, they'd be good back ups apart from glia and tony but not good enough to replace balo.
on the 29th April, 2014 at 9:44pm
@maldini heir enough with your racism BS. The guys crap thats it! Black has nothing to do with it, Pink blue white or orange, the colour has nothing to do with it! Balotelli is crap. Simple.
on the 29th April, 2014 at 9:35pm
Boring! why are we even mentioning this waste of space. If he goes to Brazil who will be the other strikers and who does CP leave behind? Does he deserve a place in front of Immobile, Toni, Destro, Rossi, Berardi, Cassano, Totti & even Gilardino? What has he done this season to push any of these players out of contention? 14 goal in 23 games isn't bad but how many penalties & why has he only played in 23 games. poor discipline, poor attitude, disputes with managers as he thinks he knows better!
on the 29th April, 2014 at 8:53pm
@ Al Dino boring say something new

@ FB40 didn't that. Very interesting. I guess Al Dino will say they were scored on a Wednesday with his right foot so don't count. Plus he's black. Oops did I go too far?
on the 29th April, 2014 at 8:50pm
Immobile,Berardi and other young Italian strikers would go to the WC before Balotelli.Indiscipline and petulance has no place in a squad that you are trying to bind together for the worlds biggest tournament.Cassano is too old for the anticipated heat.Play hungry young strikers-remember Paulownia Rossi.
on the 29th April, 2014 at 8:30pm
Balo has scored 8 goals in his last 12 internationals 4 of those he came on as a sub, the stats speak for themselves, everyone who says he shouldn't go to the World Cup are living in a dream world and need to wake up and smell the coffee, he's our number 1 striker and should defiantly start up front end of story.
on the 29th April, 2014 at 7:37pm
@Al Dino,

I fail to see your point. So he scores from the spot. Is that his fault? Does that mean he's unable to score from open play? Batistuta scored tons of goals from the spot for the Viola, does that mean he wasn't talented? How can you say the game with Germany doesn't matter? Italy doesn't make the final in 2012 without Balo and it also shows what he's capable of. Again only a fool would dismiss him.
on the 29th April, 2014 at 7:24pm
As talented as he is, Balotelli can’t play several positions at once. Thank you for understanding something about football. This whole striker thing for the azzurri is not a problem, it is a good thing. Now lets talk about my most hated players in world. First is David Luiz followed by Luiz Gustavo, next will come Cecs Fabergas and all of Barcelona besides Javi and Iniesta.
on the 29th April, 2014 at 5:42pm
@Marc F. How many of those 14 goals has Balo scored from the spot? Also why is everyone still talking about a goal that happened back in 2012? No matter how great of a goal he scored in 2012 that happened years back. When was the last time Balo wowed everyone with his performances? If the answer is back in 2012 then we have a problem. This sport is about the here and now, and over the course of this season Balo has done little to convince us of his quality.

What’s worse is the fact that people keep finding excuses for him. There is no one who can dispute his talent, but talent alone is not enough and over the last couple years Balo has done little to improve this raw talent that he possesses.
on the 29th April, 2014 at 5:22pm

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