Bramall Lane, November 2007, its cold and the night drew in long ago. Sheffield United have invited Inter to play a friendly to commemorate their 150th anniversary. Despite the Nerazzurri winning 5-2, it was played at a slow tempo and the game dissipated into the memory of the few who attended. Little did they know that they had witnessed the debut of one of football’s most frustrating stars. Mario Balotelli had scored a brace that night and that is where it all began, not just for Inter but in his career. He has risen and fallen a long way since then but now it looks like he may go back to where it all began.
As the Milanese took in their morning coffee they would have been forgiven for spitting it back out as Tuttosport announced that Mario Balotelli could be joining Roberto Mancini in Milan after his disappointing time at Liverpool. The rumour certainly holds some sense of truth as the Nerazzurri ‘mister’ has previously looked for players he has worked with before. His purchase of Stevan Jovetic and the constant pursuit of Yaya Toure and Pablo Zabaleta are testament to that.
It has been reported in recent weeks that the relationship between the coach and the club has been tense of late as the Chinese Suning Investment group have different ideas about the transfer market. They have been more inclined to lean towards a youthful policy whilst the coach wants players for now who have experience and have trophies under their belt as he battles among the title challengers.
This is why Balotelli also fits the bill as at the tender age of 25 he could be seen as a long term prospect. He would also be cheap, Inter sold him back in £22m to none other than Mancini at Manchester City but now he could be available for as little as £6m. There is no questioning his talent either and he would be returning to an environment he knows well. Milan has been his home for many years and he scored 20 goals in 59 appearances the last time he put on a black and blue shirt.
Whether he would be welcomed by the Nerazzurri faithful is another thing however as he played for Milan, (the team he supported since childhood) 63 times scoring 27 goals in two spells. Even so he would not be the first player to swap benches at the San Siro as Ronaldo, Roberto Baggio, Andrea Pirlo, Christian Vieri and Clarence Seedorf are just some in a long list that have worn both shirts in anger.
Balotelli certainly has a lot to prove and yet there is something fascinating about him being back under the bright lights of the Giuseppe Meazza. Mauro Icardi aside, Inter have struggled for goals, Eder could not repeat his Sampdoria form and Rodrigo Palacio’s best days are behind him. Could the wandering Super Mario go back to where it all began and resurrect his career? He will hope so or it well and truly could be game over.