Mario Balotelli: What has happened to the controversial Italian striker?

Mario Balotelli

Where on earth do you start with a player like Mario Balotelli?

The Italian striker is blessed with undoubted quality but unfortunately, he also has a bad boy image unmatched by many in the football world today.

If he's not playing football, he's at the centre of some forlorn controversy, getting himself in trouble when really, he should know far better. 

Whether you like him or not, it's hard to argue with the fact that he's an incredibly entertaining man, one who has had the honour of playing for some of the best clubs on the planet.

He started his career with Lumezzane in Italy before joining Inter Milan in 2007. Balotelli later moved to Manchester City and would end up having spells with Milan, Liverpool, Nice and Marseille.

It's an illustrious list of teams, one that some of the great strikers of our generation would happily reveal was their career path.

Unfortunately, Balotelli has always been talked about for his off-field antics more than his on-field performances. If a documentary was made about him, it would certainly be fascinating viewing.

Mario Balotelli in action for Italy

If stories are to be believed, then the forward is essentially a walking meme.

Whether it be setting his bathroom on fire after sending fireworks out the window or visiting a strip club two days before a game, the 30-year-old has never been afraid of the headlines.

He has racked up numerous fines for speeding and supposedly invaded a high-school in order to use their toilet. 

However, there are some nicer stories surrounding the Italy international. He once confronted a school bully after being told by a child that he was being given a rough time. Balotelli also once drove around Manchester dressed as Father Christmas, handing out cash to members of the general public.

Balotelli - Why Always Me?

If he was like that all the time, he'd be celebrated. Unfortunately, his career has been dominated by rash moments, particularly at Manchester City.

From his 'Why Always Me' celebration to being substituted for needlessly showboating against LA Galaxy in a friendly to stamping on someone's head and being sent off for a karate kick against Dynamo Kyiv. 

Because of all those moments, it's been hard to appreciate Balotelli as a footballer. Truth be told, he's actually had a very good career, scoring goals all around Europe.

The attacker has 14 goals in just 36 caps for Italy and has a pretty successful record. 

He netted 28 in 86 during his stint with Inter and then managed 30 goals in 80 games during his spell with City. What followed was a phenomenal record at AC Milan, finding the net on 26 occasions in 43 Serie A appearances. 

He scored just once at Liverpool but then rediscovered himself when given a career lifeline by Nice.

Mario Balotelli at Nice

Balotelli enjoyed French football and ended a three-year stint by scoring 43 in 76 for the Eagles. What followed was short stays at both Marseille and Brescia where he scored a combined haul of 13 goals. 

It has been a topsy-turvy career for the Italian, one that's summed up by his current position.

At the age of 30, he is finding it difficult to find a new club. You can hardly blame the lack of willing suitors. He is an inconsistent footballer with a bad reputation attached to his name.

That being said, he could soon find a route back, although a strange one at that.

That's because Balotelli is currently training with Italian fourth division side Franciacorta, a semi-professional team.

Balotelli free agent

The striker is friends with Alessandro Bertazzoli and Eugenio Bianchini, a player and sporting director at Franciacorta, who have offered him a space to train while he tries to find a new club. 

It would be unlikely to see him officially turning out for the team based in Brescia but it will be interesting to see what the future has in store for the contentious free agent. 

Most recently, he phenomenally turned down a move to Barnsley. He and his agent Mino Raiola even held talks with Tykes officials with each party interested in concluding a deal. However, Balotelli's appeal eventually cooled and once again he is back in the wilderness.

That being said, it wouldn't be a huge surprise if, in the immediate future, we see Balotelli back in the headlines. 

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