Wednesday November 16 2011
Balotelli could threaten Riva

Antonio Labbate on how Mario Balotelli could potentially one day dethrone Gigi Riva as Italy’s most prolific international goalscorer of all time.

It took over two years for Gigi Riva to open his scoring account for the Italian national side. Having debuted against Hungary in June 1965, the Cagliari legend had to wait until his fourth cap during a European Championship qualifier against Cyprus, in November 1967, to ripple the net.

Having come out for the second half 2-0 up in Cosenza, the striker, then six days shy of his 23rd birthday,  completed a sensational 13 minute hat-trick to stake his claim to a regular place in the team. It was the beginning of a scoring streak which saw him celebrate an incredible 18 goals over a 12-game period for the Azzurri.

Today, Riva is Italy’s all time top scorer thanks to 35 strikes in just 42 games for his country – having surpassed Giuseppe Meazza’s 33 in 53 record and Silvio Piola’s tally of 30 in 34. In the modern era, Roberto Baggio and Alessandro Del Piero managed 27 – also thanks to penalty duties which saw them net seven and six spot-kicks respectively – but nobody has really threatened to surpass the great Gigi.

Now, 37 years after the owner of the Cagliari No 11 shirt last played for Italy at the 1974 World Cup, Mario Balotelli has, in theory at least, the possibility to re-write history and dethrone the Sardinian icon as the country’s most prolific goalscorer.

“There are certain similarities between us as players,” Riva, who presently works for the Italian national side, noted. “He has quality, including an eye for goal and power. He could really become a great player and I hope he could be my heir, but it all depends on him now.”

As it stands, Balotelli seemingly has all that he needs in place to score goals on the international stage for the next decade and, in doing so, edge towards that Riva achievement. He has the time, the potential and now an opportunity to cement his place in the starting XI after being on the fringes of the first team since the appointment of Cesare Prandelli in the summer of 2010.

Balotelli won his first cap in August last year aged 19 years, 11 months and 29 days. To put that into perspective, Meazza was 19 years, five months and 17 days old when he made his Italy debut back in February 1930. If he can stay injury free, unlike Riva whose career was cut short by physical problems, there is no on the field reason why he wouldn’t be in the Giro Azzurro from now until he hits 30.

In terms of ability, Balotelli is somewhat unique on the Italian footballing landscape. There are other players who know where the goal is – such as Giampaolo Pazzini, Alessandro Matri and Giuseppe Rossi – but they don’t have the Manchester City man’s combination of strength and skill.

It’s a mix which Prandelli is now starting to make use of as the last two games, where Mario has impressed, have testified. Without the injured Rossi and the recovering Antonio Cassano for the next six months, Balotelli has been handed the chance to make his claim for a starting shirt and the possibility of playing in multiple games at Euro 2012 next summer.

If the sometimes unpredictable Super Mario can continue to mature – as he has been doing in recent months for club and country – and be fortunate enough to be a part of a competitive Azzurri national side, then his maiden Italian strike in Poland on Friday, during his sixth cap, could well be the first step up a 36 rung ladder.

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Have your say...
told you it wouldnt take long for us to see Balotelli back to his old self! sent off in just 18 mins of being put on for Man city, i think it is very clear the only record the italian Balotelli will break will be 35 red cards by the time he hits 25!
on the 27th November, 2011 at 11:03pm
The difference between Inzaghi, Del Piero, Totti and co is they all have a World Cup Medal to their name unlike Klose and Raul who scored more then 50 goals for their country but dont have any major honours to back that up. Also look at against whom those goals were scored against ? Any top striker can rack up a hat-trick against minnows during qualifiers. I also agree with Nirvaan, unlike other countries that rely on one striker, Italy got half a dozen of talented strikers to choose from.
on the 21st November, 2011 at 9:09am
@Anonymous; but other national teams also don't have a "Klose" in their ranks; England has rooney as their best striker but he doesn't rack them goals in,don't let get me started about SPAIN "yes the world champions" which a few years ago had "FERNANDO HIERO" as their leading goal scorer, yes a defender!!!! The point of this article is that Balo is young and he might be able to break Riva's record because of his attribute as a striker for his country.
on the 21st November, 2011 at 8:19am
Marco, with your message that Balotelli isn't even Italian, if memory serves me correctly he was born in Italy. Also if that;s the case, Zidane is not French, Podolski is not German also Giuseppe Rossi is not Italian, being born in the USA. We can go on and on about what your nationality is. But where you are born these days is actually who you are this is a multicutulral world.
on the 21st November, 2011 at 8:03am
Anonymous You keep saying that everyone here is missing your point! they're not, the stats tell the story! it's your "lame" comment that is ridiculous, you're judgment neglects taking into account Italy's style of play and those strikers contributions to the Azzurri jersey over the years (These are nominated World and European players of the year you're slating!). You're clearly a lover of the Germans, so I think you should find a nice Bundesliga website and post your weak views on there!
on the 20th November, 2011 at 11:30pm
I love Balotelli and I believe that he will eventually wear the Rossoneri shirt but let's not get ahead of ourselves and allow the guy time to grow and mature. Remember Roby Baggio was also supposed to break the record but because of a number of factors (disgraceful treatment by managers being one of them) he did not.
on the 20th November, 2011 at 11:23pm
Egg and chips i am talking about being prolific for your country overall. No one has yet told me how an Italian striker is more prolific then Klose for their country? Token i probably know a little bit more about football then you do and probably also how to play it then you do. And opinion teller your a bit of an idiot if you have not yet grasped the subject of my particular debate. We are talking strikers not teams you idiot.
on the 20th November, 2011 at 5:32pm
Anonymous... You are a clown. You should really research before blogging and looking like an idiot in front of a whole nation. Football is a team game and we have won 4 world cups as a team, and not with individuals. I do not see the relevance of your comments.
on the 20th November, 2011 at 12:27am
FAO: Anonymous Haha, well done Coco, I haven't laughed like that in ages! I've heard all sorts of rubbish regarding our game but never stuff regarding our strikers goal record & coming to absurd judgments on that! We have had strikers revered in the game because they have scored goals when it mattered the most! You clearly know nothing about Football, but you are very entertaining nonetheless. (By the way does anyone else keep hearing Benny Hill's theme tune when they read his comments?)
on the 19th November, 2011 at 4:51pm
Dear Mr anonymous, Italy have won 4 world cups and have been blessed with "prolific" strikers. Just look at some of the all time leading European goal scorers is that not prolific? You are not a coniseur of football and you are not alan hansen but you are probably French. 
on the 19th November, 2011 at 8:22am
FAO: Token - Firstly with a name like that i think you will find that your the clown and also a humerous character from South Park. Obviously those strikers would be offended as i am criticising them and rightly so. If you read more carefully i have stated that none of them were prolific for their country. Perhaps you should learn this definition within the context i have mentioned it and it will make more sense to your small mind.
on the 18th November, 2011 at 10:20pm
FAO Anonymous I think it was quite obvious that I was labelling you with that accolade actually and justifiably so! Your comments regarding Italian Strikers is absurd and it does offend our history as you have insulted our pedigree of players! I'm sure Rivera, Mazzola, Riva, Bettega, Rossi, Vialli, Mancini, Baggio, Zola, Signori, Ravenelli, Vieri, Del Piero, Totti, Inzaghi (to name just a few), would beg to differ... Maybe you should choose your words more carefully next time!
on the 18th November, 2011 at 4:25pm
Also Last Italian striker to score a hatrick if memory serves was Inzaghi vs Wales in a Euro 2004 qualifyer.
on the 18th November, 2011 at 6:23am
Italian Strikers have on average 5 years to score the level of goals which is testimounts to the large number of good strikers Italy actually produce compared with say Germany in the last 10 years who don't have a non naturalised striker. Not that I don't actually like Klose and Podolski. The key is how many goals have Italian strikers scored that were key. eg Paolo Rossi scored 20 goals for Italy buy 9 were in World Cups. Importants on the big stage that mattered.
on the 18th November, 2011 at 6:21am
A comparison between Balotelli's goal scoring prospects and Riva's demonstrated goal scoring prowess would be incomplete without first discussing the merit of supply from midfield.

On that score I think you will find that the comparison on Balotelli's part through no fault of his own is sorely lacking.
on the 17th November, 2011 at 11:32pm
FAO: Nirvaan
Nirvaan i like how you have ommitted Jurgen Klinsman and Bierhoff from your list of names in order to add weight to your point. Every players is guaranteed a starting spot so long as they are prolific. Messi has fierce competition yet he plays because he is that damn good. Some of the Italian players you mention are very good, but i am not sure about prolific.It is unfair to imply that Klose has no competition for a starting spot given that Germany have a better team then Italy.
on the 17th November, 2011 at 9:02pm
FAO: Tokenbubble
Token it appears that by calling Italian strikers lame that i have also, according to your outburst, criticised the Italian national teams history. If that was your interpretation then you are confused. Im not criticising the Italian football team but only their strikers. So i would be grateful if you read the comments carefully before labelling yourself as a clown.
on the 17th November, 2011 at 8:57pm
The reason that Italy's record goals tally is so low, is because of two factors. The first being Italy's style of play, which has mostly been cautious, (thank god for Prandelli's positive, pro-active, and attractive approach). The second reason is Italy's lack of appreciation for their finest attacking players. Look at Roberto Baggio, one of the most gifted players of all time. He only played 57 times for his country!! Had he been of a different nationality, he would have doubled his caps.
on the 17th November, 2011 at 7:25pm
Let's wait and see. Balotelli has many talents and many flaws. Only time will tell if he can find a strike partner to truly compliment him. My gut feeling is he needs a kindred (ie. adventurous)spirit like Cassano or Giovinco and a poacher like Pazzini. So a forward three of Cassano/ Giovinco, Pazzini and Balotelli would offer him the time and space to express himself and make those runs into the box he does so well at Man City. I just hope Prandelli doesn't perservere with Osvaldo, who was naff
on the 17th November, 2011 at 3:56pm
If we get to trust on youth so much, I believe we shall have a great national side. There is no doubt that Italy has plenty of talents, young ones that is and they can be of so much hunger to win trophies. Let us keep faith in youngsters and i hope Italy can produce plenty of them in future. Prandelli has done a good job so far, so let us hope he continues it so Euro 2012 is Italian.
on the 17th November, 2011 at 9:15am
In watching Italian football for some 17 years now, no striker has been given a guaranteed starting shirt for the Azzurri the way Klose has. Del Piero, Totti, Vieri, Inzaghi, Baggio, Casiraghi, Ravanelli, Zola, Gilardino, Toni and Cassano have all been starters for the Italian team.

Klose has been a certain starter since 2002 (competiting with Podolski, Asamoah, Jancker, Gomez is not the same calibre). Even when off form Klose plays, he has for almost a decade. Great player, poor comparison.
on the 17th November, 2011 at 2:25am
If there was a blog that I could describe as a joke, it would be this one. How does scoring one goal justify that Riva's record is under threat? Balotelli is too wasteful for his own good! He has talent but you are getting far too excited, Antonio! What's next? Ranocchia will beat Cannavaro's record for the most caps?
on the 17th November, 2011 at 12:51am
To the clown who won't reveal himself and is merely on here to have a pop at Italian Football (Yawn!), I just want to say one thing... 4 World Cups ****
on the 17th November, 2011 at 12:27am
Please stop with this Balotelli hype! Please! One goal that's all it was one goal and suddenly we are now comparing him to Riva too, I mean come on people, he's not even Italian and to even put his name in the same sentence as Baggio, Riva or anyone is just ludicrous. Let the hype go to his head a bit more and you'll see the old Balo back throwing a tantrum coz he's been substituted!
on the 16th November, 2011 at 11:45pm
If Balo was a white guy and he wasn't names after an extremely famous computer game character, i doubt he would be as popular as he is. And i love this website, but if ti has taken a decade to come up with this it is slightly poor. The font and easthetics are amateur. Also where on earth are the blogs with tributes to Del Piero? Thatss i news not "blondie's revenge". Come on football italia step it up you can do better then this!
on the 16th November, 2011 at 6:55pm
The only useful comments here are from Paolo and Tottigol. I agree that 35 goals is a joke. I think that reveals just how lame Italian strikers truly are. How many has Miroslav Klose scored? And Tottigol its true the guy scores one goal and now Antonio is getting excited. There is probably little to write about and therefore they have to exaggerate any scrap they get their hands on. Balo doesn't always feature for Man City and i think he will lose his place soon.
on the 16th November, 2011 at 6:52pm
Blimey, he just scored his first goal. Settle down. This site is getting ridiculous with its overenthusiasm to show off the new site with a lot of articles. Beware guys, the quality is slipping a bit.
on the 16th November, 2011 at 3:48pm
In my opinion all this Balotelli hype is going a little bit overboard. Its very easy to score goals playing in a league like the EPL where they really have no concept of the term "defence", the proof being that their top teams Man Utd, Arsenal & Chelsea having conceded 5, 8 & 5 goals respectively on recent occasions.
You also have to take into account that any striker could look good playing in Man City's team of superstars. In truth it would be much harder for him to not look "world class"
on the 16th November, 2011 at 11:46am
No Italian has ever accumulated a substantially high number of goals for the national side. In fact, i can't remember the last time we had an Italian pull off a hat-trick. It is not the Italian style to score as many goals as possible but rather to score when and the required amount so let Riva keep his title. As far as Balotelli is concerned, he has scored one lucky goal. A goal where the polish 'keeper really should have done better and what more? ....i'll have Cassano back please ASAP!!
on the 16th November, 2011 at 11:44am
Interesting comparison however im not sure if Riva was as unpredictable as Balo is. He is a great talent, but like Cassano I have a feeling he's a ticking time bomb waiting to explode.
on the 16th November, 2011 at 11:22am

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