It was rather odd to see Mario Balotelli appearing in a Nice jersey on Sunday.
He’s worn shirts from some of the most decorated clubs in Europe, from AC Milan to Liverpool.
But those dizzy heights are beyond him now. Balotelli has found his level, and it’s in Ligue 1.
To his credit, the Italian’s Nice career got off to the perfect start. He scored twice in a 3-2 win as Nice shot to the top of the table, where they sit alongside Monaco.
Observant viewers will have noticed something different about Balotelli. Specifically, that the number 45 wasn’t on the back of his shirt.
The 26-year-old has worn 45 at every club he’s played for. After signing for Liverpool in 2014, he explained exactly why.
“When I first played three or four games with Inter Milan, when I was young, I had No 45 because the numbers for young players were from No 36 to No 50,” he told Liverpool’s official website.
“I took No 45 because I was joking that four plus five is nine - and I scored in all four games.
“It brings me luck and that's why I've always kept No 45.”
Prohibited from wearing 45
Balotelli must have been disappointed, then, when he found out that Ligue 1 rules meant he wasn’t allowed to wear 45.
According to Article 564 of the Ligue 1 and 2 regulations, the highest number allowed is 30 because squads must not exceed 30 players. The document describes numbers ranging between 45 and 82 as “whimsical”.
If a club can justify having a larger squad then they can go up to number 40, but even that wouldn’t help Balotelli.
Meanwhile, the numbers 1, 16 and 30 are reserved for goalkeepers.
Balotelli might have been feeling rather dejected when he was handed the No. 9 shirt, but he might have a new lucky number after Sunday’s debut brace.
The Italian left Liverpool in unceremonious terms after being made to train with the youth team.
He would go on to express his regret about signing for the Reds in 2014.
"It was the worst mistake of my life," Balotelli told Canal Plus, per the Telegraph.
"Apart from the fans, who were fantastic with me, and some of the players who I really got on with, I didn't like the club.
"I had two coaches, Brendan Rodgers and Jurgen Klopp. As people they didn't make a good impression on me. I didn't get along with them."
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