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The Gold Rush: Mario Balotelli

Super Mario!

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As a Liverpool supporter and the 2015/16 season nearing its end, I've been thinking about what will happen to Balotelli once he returns to Liverpool. The current A.C. Milan striker certainly won't last another season at Anfield. Let's take a look at how Balotelli would fit in at Atlanta United. Tell me what you think in the comments below.

Background

Balotelli came onto the scene in 2009/10 with Inter when they won the UEFA Champions League. He immediately left for England that summer and ended up at Manchester City where he won the Golden Boy award later that year. Many thought Balotelli had the potential to be the next big thing. Everything didn't go quite as hoped, however. After just three seasons with Manchester City, scoring 20 goals in 54 appearances and helping Manchester City win the Premier League (sorry United fans), he returned to Italy, this time, to play for AC Milan. In his second go-round in Italy, Balotelli did a bit better, scoring 26 goals in 43 appearances where he earned himself a return to England at Liverpool.

Balotelli's Merseyside stint couldn't have gone much worse. He scored only one goal in 16 appearances and all but ended any premonition that he could turn into something great. His Anfield stay did not last long and ended up being loaned back to AC Milan after one season where he remains.

At the 2012 European Championship, Balotelli put in a memorable performance against Germany, scoring two goals in the first half and scoring another against Ireland.

Pros

Balotelli has size, some speed, and loads of technical ability. No one has ever doubted this throughout his career no matter your thoughts on him. He is also a ruthless penalty taker, the best in Europe. He has the skill set to succeed in MLS, has experience at some of the world's highest stages all while barely being old enough to rent a car in the United States.

If Atlanta United signed Balotelli, he would be fully capable of leading the line. In fact, I feel the MLS suits his play style more than the Premier League, and he would be able to slot home all of Mark Geiger's crazy penalty calls.

Sure, Balotelli has scored only two goals in his last 28 total appearances for Liverpool and Milan, but that's what makes signing Balotelli a realistic proposition. His market value has dropped significantly, Milan do not want to sign him to another permanent deal, and no major European clubs have declared interest. Once back at Melwood, Liverpool will be looking to offload the Italian striker for almost anything they can get.

For a player on a seemingly downward spiral and looking to revive his career, MLS doesn't seem like such a bad option for Balotelli.

Cons

Balotelli comes with plenty of baggage; there's no denying that. Some have accused him of being immature and lazy. Jose Mourinho once described Balotelli as being "unmanageable" after skipping an individual meeting to see a Formula One race instead.

I can't even begin to list the number of controversies he's been a part of both on the field and off, some of which have led to multi-game suspensions. Though he is talented, there is always the risk he could end up with a suspension and do more harm to the team than good.

Additionally, his decline in form over the last two seasons is just as much a flaw. Although there's never a guarantee any player will score goals or perform to expected levels, especially in a new league an ocean away, scoring two goals in 28 appearances is never a good sign for a striker.

Conclusion

I was a believer in Balotelli several seasons ago. I pinned him to eventually become one of the best strikers in Europe. Things obviously didn't turn out, and I don't see him taking that step and becoming a great. MLS might complement his playing style, but Balotelli comes with more risk than I am comfortable with.