Mario Balotelli endured a year to forget at Liverpool.
Having played for Manchester City between 2010 and 2013 in a spill that mixed moments of individual brilliance with constant tabloid headlines, ‘Super Mario’ returned to the Premier League just one year later in eyebrow-raising circumstances.
In a summer where Liverpool shed a European Golden Shoe-winning Luis Suarez, the only signings they made in the way of replacements were Balotelli, Rickie Lambert and Divock Origi, who was immediately loaned back to Lille.
Balotelli’s disastrous Liverpool spell
Now, in order to give credit where credit’s due, it is worth remembering that Balotelli was coming off the back of 18 months at AC Milan where he scored an impressive 30 goals in just 54 matches.
However, even though Liverpool were never truly going to be able to replace Suarez, moving for Balotelli was nevertheless met with grimaces given his disciplinary issues and concerns over his attitude at City.
And despite the Italian forward flying out of the blocks with an impressive debut for the Reds at White Hart Lane, it wasn’t long before everything fell apart and all the prior worries came true.
In the end, Balotelli’s time on Merseyside was even more catastrophic than the low points of his City spell as he sunk to a miserable goalscoring record of four goals in 28 games, including just a single strike in the Premier League.
Balotelli was eventually loaned back to AC Milan the following summer, before being permanently offloaded to Nice as the Jurgen Klopp era started to take shape in the front of the Kop.
And the writing had been on the wall for some time because by the time Liverpool reached the business end of the 2014/15 season, Balotelli really was finding game time difficult to come by.
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Balotelli responds to Man Utd fans’ chants
As such, the criticism was raining in from all directions, and Manchester United fans had more ammunition than most with Balotelli having experienced tough moments at both of their north-west rivals in the space of just a few years.
So, when Balotelli merely came on as a second-half substitute – picking up a yellow card as he went along – during United’s 2-1 win at Anfield in March 2014, it was inevitable that the travelling fans were going to make their feelings clear.
And as reported by the Mirror at the time, that’s exactly what they did as chants of ‘City reject’, ‘what a waste of money’ and far more derogatory songs rained down on the then Reds striker as he walked out of Anfield.
Balotelli’s response? Well, typical Balotelli, because he proceeded to raise his phone as though he was taking a photograph or short video before producing his middle finger for good measure.
It was such a classic Balotelli moment, in fact, that footage of the exchange still sits on more than one million views all these years later, so be sure to reminisce about it for yourself down below:
Video: Balotelli gives Man Utd fans the middle finger
He was never going to react any other way, was he?
What’s happened to Balotelli ever since?
Sadly, at the end of the day, Balotelli’s disciplinary issues would bring down his Liverpool stint just as it did his time at Manchester City, ultimately sending his career into free fall as a result.
There were flashes of the talent that saw him win the Golden Boy award back in 2010 such as his 26-goal season at Nice and recall to the Italy senior squad in 2018, but the signs of decline had already started to show on Merseyside.
Now, Balotelli finds himself playing in the Swiss Super League with Sion having hopped around Marseille, Brescia, Monza and Adana Demirspor over the past few years.
Only ‘Super Mario’ himself truly knows what factors are responsible for the trajectory of his career, but we wish him all the best in what’s left of his time as a professional footballer and hope that he doesn’t get too many ‘City reject’ chants from the terraces while he’s at it!