Over the past few seasons, Italian striker Mario Balotelli has at times been a larger character than football itself.
From fireworks being set off in his home to his petulance on the pitch, Balotelli certainly has always managed to make waves. His play for Inter Milan, Manchester City, AC Milan and the Italian national team made an impact as well, scoring goals in incredible ways and pulling off astonishing moves up front.
Few will forget the way he powered the Azzurri past Germany and into the Euro 2012 final, striking a Herculean-pose along the way.
But just four years removed from that moment, we find the 25-year old forward at a crossroads.
An ill-fitting transfer two summers ago to Liverpool has yielded practically nothing for both player and club, and new Reds’ manager Jurgen Klopp has stated that it is time for Balotelli to move on.
With a change of scenery in the air, we look at the possible destinations for Super Mario.
ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE
After the recent disappointment with Liverpool, it can be easy to forget about Balotelli’s excellent play with Manchester City at the beginning of the decade.
His first two seasons in Manchester beginning in 2010 brought 27 goals across all competitions, as the strong forward was a handful for Premier League defences to deal with.
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While he has not replicated that form with his current club, many teams could be in the market for the talented striker. Teams that could be facing a relegation battle such as Burnley, Hull City or Sunderland may feel like it’s worth a shot to bring some firepower to their attack.
The main issue for a possible Premier League move is the money that would be necessary for these clubs to make it happen, and at this point, it seems unlikely a bigger team will take a chance on him.
ITALIAN SERIE A
Where it all began for Balotelli and perhaps his most likely destination. Each of his stops at both AC Milan and Internazionale brought buckets of goals and plenty of fanfare.
Over six seasons, with three each for the two Milan clubs, Balo scored 61 goals across all competitions, and his presence in the league would greatly help his chances of getting a spot back on the Italian national squad.
If the price is right, a team like Sassuolo or Chievo Verona may take a chance on him.
MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER
Super Mario in Hollywood? That script could write itself, and Balotelli would certainly be a huge hit with fans in the United States.
He would likely be able to command a large salary and could have his pick of where to play. Chicago Fire, Los Angeles Galaxy or Seattle Sounders would all be interested in his services.
And with up to four new teams joining the league over the next few seasons, it is a rumoured move that will not go away anytime soon.
CHINESE SUPER LEAGUE
Brazilian forward Hulk has almost 60 million reasons for Balotelli to make the move to China, and he likely wouldn’t find a more lucrative deal anywhere in the world.
The Chinese Super League has become a genuine force in the transfer market, making players like Graziano Pelle and Ramires some of the highest paid footballers in the world.
While the quality of play may not be the same as the European leagues, there is a definite chance that Balo at least listens to what some teams in China have to offer him.
Balotelli was and still is an exciting player to watch, with moves on the pitch that make fans get up out of their seats. There is hope that he finds his way to a club that can get him back to the top. Until then, the beat goes on.