Ten years ago, Mario Balotelli was considered one of the brightest prospects in world football.
The Italian was just about to move from Italian minnows Lumezzane to Inter Milan - where he went on to win three consecutive Serie A titles during his three seasons at the San Siro.
At the age of just 20-years-old, Balotelli had won three league titles, established himself as a regular for Inter Milan and won the prestigious Golden Boy award in 2010. The world was at his feet.
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A big-money move to Manchester City followed, where things started to slowly unravel for the enigmatic forward.
He certainly wasn’t a flop at the Etihad following his £22.5 million move, though. He managed to score 30 goals in 80 appearances in all competitions and helped the club win their first league title since 1968 - playing a major role in Sergio Aguero’s last-minute goal against QPR on the final day.
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But during his two-and-half campaigns in Manchester, Balotelli failed to really take his game to the next level and his name was more in the headlines for his antics, rather than his football ability.
Balotelli returned to Italy to sign for AC Milan in January 2013 in the hope to get his career firmly back on track - and he did a pretty good job.
He scored 30 goals in 54 appearances and attracted the interest of Liverpool in 2014. The Reds paid £16 million for him and Balotelli was hoping his second spell in the Premier League would be a success.
One goal in 16 league appearances summed up his spell on Anfield, though, and he was loaned back to Milan the following season.
Now, Balotelli finds himself playing in Ligue 1 for Nice and is banging in the goals. Six goals in six league matches has helped his side sit top of the league and the striker looks to be in the form of his life.
Love life problems
So, after impressing in both Italy and France, why couldn’t Balotelli find his greatest form in England?
Well, according to his agent Mino Raiola, it was down to his struggling love life. Balotelli has a child with his partner Raffaella Fico and was engaged to Fanny Neguesha and clearly failed to deal with his relationship issues.
Raiola believes that, if Balotelli had focused on football rather than his relationships, he would have succeeded in the Premier League.
“Balotelli had chosen, unconsciously or consciously, not to put football in the middle of his life. So there were always marginal phenomena that influenced his performance,” Raiola said, per the Independent.
Doubts over City move
However, the super-agent has also admitted his mistake by putting doubts in his head over his transfer to City.
“Yes. A big mistake made in his career was to let him go from Manchester City to Milan, against my advice,” he added.
“I should have said, ‘You succeed with City, that’s it, period.’ If I’d done that, hard, he would have.”
Whether Balotelli will ever return to the Premier League for a third time to prove English fans wrong remains to be seen.
If he does, maybe he should forget about concentrate on his football, rather than his love life.
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