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.

Have your say...
That's why I don't want to see another 23 players come and go this summer. We just need to start building. Sort our defence first. Then our midfield (next season his De Jong and Monty's last chance). Then our attack. Build slowly. Buy decent players (just 1 or 2 not 10). Promote the best of our youth (Cristante, Petagna). I don't expect Milan to win the league next season just head in the right direction.
on the 29th April, 2014 at 5:14pm
@ adrian gaveglia The thing that has really frustrated me this season is that after all we went through last season with the massive transition and still managing to finish third Galliani and Allegri decided to change around the whole squad again. We made something like 23 different changes to the squad including utterly pointless signings. We bought players we didn't need (Matri), let go players we could still do with (Ambrosini) and retained some of our worst players (Bonera, Mexes, Robinho)
on the 29th April, 2014 at 5:12pm
Well said Strummerman. Imagine iimmobilen destro could actually be left at home. Even if they are brought along for a holiday they wont feature as balotelli will probably start and finish all games scoring maybe 1 goal and being picked again in 2 years because of it! Disgusting that this man even gets this amount of media coverage, when he is so average with a disgusting attitude. All this attention should be given to immobile 21 goals playing against the same teams with worse players around him
on the 29th April, 2014 at 5:07pm
Based on the article and the things im reading.. italy for world cup..
Gk Consigle
Maggio. Astori. Rannochia. Bonera.
Giacarini. marrone, motta, monto
Balotelli berardi

Subs. Pazzini. Matri. Gila. Candreva.
leave: pirlo. Immob. Destro. Insigne. Verratti. Buffon.

There you have it. Now, all we have to do is HOPE they have a great world cup. Thats effectively what you are saying by bringing balotelli, Forget all those in form players whov had a great season, and take those who MIGHT play well.
on the 29th April, 2014 at 5:01pm
Another blog about Balo sheesh,if only Balo had gotten a goal for every blog. There are much better young strikers right now. Immobile should be the talk and toast of Italy, He has been truly remarkable scoring goals with the aplomb of the Brazilian Ronaldo,and at Inzaghi's rate. Destro looks like the modern version of Chinaglia and maybe even Vieri. These two should be discussed not the underachieving Balo.
on the 29th April, 2014 at 4:40pm
Only a person with a real lack of intelligence would shrug Super Mario off as being average or "not good". Yes, he has his issues. He can be a brat but there's not denying his raw talent. Milan are have been crap the past couple years and you're going to put that on him? And those who claim he only scores penalties are foolish. That second goal V Germany in 2012 is a goal only a true striker will score. He's a different beast when he plays for Italy (a proper team). He needs to be there!
on the 29th April, 2014 at 4:25pm
maldini's heir - hear what you are saying but think that every single player you mention needs to go.
In addition Kaka can go too.
I would not spend a bean on this team - i'd take all the loan players back and promote the primavera.
I am tired of seeing past it mercenaries not performing.
The only bright sparks for Milan are when the kids play - play them all.
Remove the negative core of under performing seasoned professionals and add some hunger to this wasted squad.
on the 29th April, 2014 at 4:15pm
Fact Mila squad need major reconstruction
Fact Mila squad is the worst in 25 years
Fact Balotelli is living of scraps
Fact there is a problem with Team Spirit at Mila
Fact losing when used to winning is an issue for winners
Fact balotelli is a winner
Fact balotelli is a talent
Fact Italia has no better match winner than him
Fact Italia has a history of not using World Class Talent at major tournaments
Q. do we want to do all the other wc teams a favour & not back the 1 player THEY R SCARED OFF?
on the 29th April, 2014 at 4:09pm
And then there are those with premeditated hate. Even if Mario scores 5 goals (in Euro he scored 3, top scorers along side with the likes of C.Ronaldo) and wins the WC, they will still hate him no matter what. Pirlo has a quote in his book especially for these guys (Chap 18): "They’re a truly horrendous bunch, a herd frustrated individuals who’ve taken the worst of history and made it their own."
on the 29th April, 2014 at 4:05pm
There are two types of Balotelli haters. One was those who were wowed by his abilities and expected much more from him to the point of unreasonable measures, and got disappointed.
on the 29th April, 2014 at 4:04pm
@ Baggiot class balotelli not! Not you again. You're so boring. And you incorporate someone you supposedly dislike into your username. You're slightly obsessed. Why not just "Baggiot [sic] class"?

@ Anonymous Pelle and Borini? The asylum called they know you've escaped.
on the 29th April, 2014 at 4:03pm

Umm... You know ZERO about football if you believe Gilardino is better than Balotelli.. ZERO.
on the 29th April, 2014 at 4:02pm
@ Viktor The problem is numbers. We have a massive squad and we cannot play 7 or 8 strikers. Therefore I think we need to choose between Taarabt and Niang. In fairness Taarabt has done ok. For me its one or the other not both. Of course this problem shouldn't have arisen. We shouldn't have signed so many attackers in the first place and focused on the defence. I nearly mentioned Honda and Brsa as well but perhaps they offer something a little different.
on the 29th April, 2014 at 4:00pm
He behaves a lot better for italy so If you think he scores enough goals then he must go.
on the 29th April, 2014 at 3:18pm
Why do you need a false 9 if not Ballotelli then isn't Imoble the obvous choise.
on the 29th April, 2014 at 3:14pm
Mario is tremendously talented and his antics are minor. Compared to other players (Drogba rants and Ronaldo hissy fits) Balotelli is mature. this is FOOTBALL, not a Miss America pageant. It is time people focus on what happens on the pitch. The guy is scrutinised under a microscope week in and week out and he needs a break. He has more of a reason to go to Brasil in a blue shirt than any other striker, other than maybe Rossi.
on the 29th April, 2014 at 2:27pm
y always blame mario...right now he is the best Italian striker.i would like to see mario with immobile against England
on the 29th April, 2014 at 2:07pm
I don't really agree with this article and was saying to a friend of mine the other day that I myself have also grown tired of the Ballotelli antics.

14 goals in 23 games is not bad, but it is not world class in a league where a man like Balo with his size and strength should dominate. I wish Destro was a bit further along, he could easily take Balo's place if he wasn't coming off of a half season where he suffered an injury. The guy is on fire, unlike Balotelli.
on the 29th April, 2014 at 1:59pm
@maldini's heir

You would be a fool to get rid of Niang dont you think? He doesnt have an high salary and has an eu pasport so keep him. Get rid of Amelia, Bonera, mexes, Constant, Muntri, Binho and matri.

Im 100% with you on kaka and monty's recent decline, specially kaka. He dribbled like old kaka in hes first part of the season now he just faded
on the 29th April, 2014 at 1:56pm
I might be in the minority, but as a Juve fan, I'd love to see Balo come to Juventus ! He seems to get on well with the players on the nazionale, and there's no telling what he could do with a club like Juve and the talent at our disposal. I agree all the Balo criticism is unfair and over-blown. I think Conte would get the best out of him - look at how Tevez seems so at-home and happy at Juve.
on the 29th April, 2014 at 1:10pm
Milan ahve been in a decline since they sold Kaka to Madrid a few years back. They completely destroyed a slick, workable infastructure and I'm not sure it is recoverable without investment. To criticise Balotelli or monty is crazy. Why did you get rid of Pirlo? one of the most gifted midfielder's ever and never replaced him. The back 4 is a shambles and no shape in midfield, they even let Boetang go, who was one of their best. Look at what Juventus are doing? Sign more italians!!!
on the 29th April, 2014 at 1:05pm

I might have known you would agree with this awful article!!!!
Please....stop going on about Milan...this is about the azzuri,,,and the best way forward,,,you keep going on about the article,,,Italy plan a,,,not Milan!!!
As for the article producer,,again mentioning Balo scoring 14 goals???but they are nearly all penalties!! Will you guys stop! It's actually offensive to keep praising a man who hardly scores,,,has he ever scored 3 in a game???
on the 29th April, 2014 at 1:02pm
This guy as always was and always will be a bunch of drama, he is an attention grabber and not for what he does on the pitch, but what he doses off it. By no means at all is he bad but also by no means at all is he good, he's nothing but mediocre. Milan are a mess they met there demise when they let go all there legends some of them where old but they should have tried everything to keep Ibra and Pirlo.
on the 29th April, 2014 at 12:58pm
Most overrated player since Del Siero. Right now at least 6 Italian strikers are better than him (Toni, Destro, Immobile, Gilardino, Pellé, and Borini).
on the 29th April, 2014 at 12:31pm
on the 29th April, 2014 at 11:56am
on the 29th April, 2014 at 11:53am
Balotelli is a big star in the worst Milan side in history, if there's a player that would the cristism first it's always the strikers, for Italy he has always carried the attack himself upfront and so desperately needing a strike partner !
on the 29th April, 2014 at 11:45am
Thanks for bringing balance but I'd prefer an article on a) Kaka's demise b) Monty's demise or c) why Milan had less than 40% possession against Roma. Personally this summer I'd like to see Milan sell/let go Amelia, Bonera, Mexes, one of Constant or Emanuelson, one of Muntari or Essien, one of Niang or Taarabt, Robinho and Matri. Those 6 should raise in the region of 25m surely. We should get in Perin, Astori and Santon at cost of probably 40m. Also Seedorf has 3 games to prove himself.
on the 29th April, 2014 at 11:30am

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