Mario Balotelli’s ill-fated spell at Liverpool appears to have come to an end, as it was revealed Tuesday that the player has rejoined AC Milan on a season-long loan. Having already passed his medical at the club where he spent one previous season and that he supported growing up, Balotelli is expected to start training with his new teammates immediately and could be in the lineup to face Empoli this weekend.
The move is somewhat surprising, given the nature of Balotelli’s exit from Milan 12 months ago when then- coach Pippo Inzaghi said Milan would gain “team spirit and hunger” with Balotelli gone.
But one year can be a long time in footballing terms. With Milan in the process of retooling its team, club owner Silvio Berlusconi has been looking for a talismanic striker for coach Sinisa Mihajlovic to construct the team’s attack around. For a time there had been talk of Zlatan Ibrahimovic rejoining the club. But those rumors have cooled, with recent reports hinting Ibra could be a target for Manchester United.
As the old song says, “you can’t always get what you want.” But is Balotelli really what Milan needs? It’s difficult to say, although when you look at the numbers from his previous season with the Rossoneri – 26 goals in 43 Serie A appearances – his track record with the club isn’t too bad.
With just one goal in 20 Premier League appearances, Balotelli’s time at Liverpool was the low point of the striker’s career to date. Having lost his place in Brendan Rodgers’ squad, Balotelli has also found himself on the outside looking in for Italy. At Milan, he will have the opportunity to play more regularly and has a chance to work his way back into the conversation for Euro 2016.
More importantly, Balotelli has a chance to revive his flagging career. Now age 25, he was once regarded as one of the most promising young strikers in European football. But disciplinary and temperamental problems have seen his stock plunge. Even at the cut rate of £14m, Balotelli was something of a risky signing for Liverpool at this time last year.
It was a gamble that didn’t pay off and reports have it that Balotelli will take a cut in his salary in order to join Milan. So eager are Rodgers and Liverpool to move the striker on that they have asked for no loan fee and will reportedly pay half his weekly salary – around £40,000 a week – with Milan picking up the other half.
“I am happy to be back,” Balotelli told Milan’s website. “I don’t have much to say because I just need to train and show what I can contribute.” “Physically I am okay but I need to train with the squad. I am very motivated but I need to work hard and talk less. I always hoped I would return to Milan, the club holds a special place in my heart. Do I want to end my career here? I just want to get back to work and have a good season.”
Milan went scoreless in its first Serie A outing of the season, a 2-0 loss to Fiorentina. As Mihajlovic looks to kick his sputtering attack into gear, Balotelli will be competing for a spot in the lineup with the likes of Carlos Bacca, Luiz Adriano, Alessio Cerci, Alessandro Matri, and Jeremy Menez.