Mario Balotelli has fallen so far from where he once stood. Two seasons of poor form saw him given the chance to have a summer off after Antonio Conte left him out of Italy's Euro 2016 squad.
Having finished a disappointing loan spell at AC Milan, Balotelli's future is more uncertain now than it has ever been. It is unlikely that Jurgen Klopp will find a place for him in his Liverpool squad while it is reasonable to suggest that few clubs in Europe will take a chance on him.
Needless to say, the Italian is in an almighty fight to stop his career spiralling into the abyss and could not have spent this summer any more wisely than at the training ground, out of the media spotlight.
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But the front page is exactly where he has landed and, once again, it is for all the wrong reasons. Milan daily Corriere della Sera have implicated the 25-year-old in a violent brawl that took place at a nightclub near Brescia.
It is a serious allegation as the fight in question saw one man lose three fingers after his hand was forced into a ticket validation machine. There is no suggestion that Balotelli was involved in that particular incident and the reports from witnesses are mixed.
Indeed, some who were present claim Balotelli and his friends played a very active role in the fight in an attempt to avenge a kick to his face while others say the Liverpool striker walked away as soon as violence escalated. The report mentions a high-speed escape in two Audi cars as well as the assault of a young man.
Whether or not he was involved is a matter for the investigating police officers but the wider concern for fans is the company he continues to keep. It is clear Balotelli is still finding himself led astray when he should be focussing on his professional career.
Balotelli was hoping to seal a permanent move back to AC Milan after his one-year loan deal ended but his sub-standard performances, coupled with fitness issues, saw the Serie A club turn down the opportunity to make the move permanent.
The Milan president, Silvio Berlusconi, said: “There will be several departures as the likes of Alex, [Philippe] Mexes, [Kevin-Prince] Boateng and Balotelli all have deals that will expire.”
That came as a blow to Balotelli, who had earlier confirmed his desire to stay at the San Siro.
He said in April: “When it comes to my future I want to stay with Milan because I wasn’t happy at Liverpool and I don’t want to return there. And plus, Milan has the money. I’ve been doing well in my last two games, there are another six for me to prove myself. I feel in good shape physically at last and am relaxed.”
His future is now up in the air with reported interest from the Chinese Super League likely to be his best option.
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