So farewell Mad Mario. A player with talent, but a character of turbulence. A year after moving from Liverpool, Mario Balotelli is heading home to AC Milan.
From the moment the Italian swaggered through the doors at Anfield, everything went wrong. He leaves with one Premier League goal, scored to beat Tottenham Hotspur in a pulsating clash in February, to his name. He spearheaded the front pages, rather than the back.
Brendan Rodgers took a gamble and it backfired spectacularly. It would be no understatement to say that it cost them Champions League football. Luis Suarez was special, but his replacement was merely a distraction and a headache.
This was the same player that grappled with Roberto Mancini during their time at Manchester City, the same character that dared to don a Milan shirt during his time at Inter, the same individual who lights fireworks inside a building. Sometimes, a lion just cannot be tamed.
One last chance
But now Balotelli has a final chance at making the grade at a top club. Milan are on the up, demonstrated by their signings of Carlos Bacca and Luiz Adriano, and finally mean business again. They cannot afford to carry passengers on a difficult journey back to the top.
When on song, the former City forward can be majestic. When his face is smiling rather than scouling, the world gets to see the other side to him. The side that has convinced all the clubs thus far to take a plunge.
Mancini, Rodgers, Jose Mourinho and Massimiliano Allegri have all seen something in him worth exploring. They've seen the calmness in front of goal, the power, the panache. Frustrating men sometimes make wonderful players and, for that reason alone, they have all managed him with varying degrees of success.
The hero returns?
The past 12 months at Anfield have been the worst of his career. They have cost him a starting berth in the Italian national team, his reputation, and very nearly another shot at the big time. If it hadn't been for Milan, rotting in the reserves at Anfield would have been the most likely option.
But now Balotelli is back. Back at the San Siro with a glint in his eye. If the Rossoneri are to hit the same heights of old, it could be down to the return of the prodigal son. If he acts up, a future in the game will look more uncertain than ever.
Football fans, do you think Balotelli will perform well upon his return to AC? Is his Liverpool career over?
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