Player of the Week - Mario Balotelli
Look who's back!
Mario Balotelli has returned to the Premier League only 18 months after going back to Italy to play for AC Milan. Liverpool have signed the striker for around £16 million and he becomes Liverpool's 9th summer signing. The Italian striker is seen as one of European football's brightest talents and has already won 7 major trophies with previous clubs Inter Milan and Manchester City.Liverpool will hope that Balotelli can settle quickly and create a good partnership with Liverpool's other main striker, Daniel Sturridge. If Balotelli and Sturridge can come close to scoring the 52 Premier League goals that Sturridge and Luis Suarez scored last season, the transfer of the Uruguayan may be forgotten.
What do we know about Balotelli?
Balotelli was born in August 1990 in Palermo, the capital city of Sicily, which is an Italian island south-west of the Italian mainland. He is the son of Ghanaian immigrants. When he was 2 years old, he moved to Brescia in the north of Italy. In Brescia, Balotelli was put into foster care and was brought up by foster parents, Silvia and Francesco Balotelli. He had to wait until his 18th birthday before he could ask for Italian citizenship and officially become Italian.When Balotelli scored two goals for Italy in the semi-final of the 2012 European Championships he dedicated his goals to Silvia, his foster mother. Balotelli's first major club was Inter Milan and before his 18th birthday he scored in the Italian Cup Final to help Inter beat Roma to win his first major trophy. Balotelli also became the youngest player in Inter's history to score a goal in the Champions League (18 years and 85 days). His first appearance in England also came in an Inter shirt. He scored twice in a friendly against Sheffield FC, the oldest club in world football, as part of their 150th anniversary celebrations in November 2007.
"I am Italian, I feel Italian, I will forever play for the Italy national team." Mario Balotelli speaking after becoming an Italian citizen in 2008.
Where has Balotelli played?
In total, Balotelli made 86 appearances for Inter over three seasons, scoring 28 goals. During his time with Inter he won three league titles, an Italian Cup and the Champions League in 2009/10, although he was an unused substitute in the final against Bayern Munich. In August 2010, Balotelli moved to the Premier League for the first time when Manchester City paid Inter Milan around £20 million for him. Roberto Mancini was Manchester City manager at the time and he was also Balotelli's manager at Inter. He made 80 appearances and scored 30 goals for City and won the Premier League and FA Cup double in 2011/12. In the final game of the 2011/12 season, Balotelli provided the assist for Sergio Aguero to score the 94th minute winner that gave City their first league win in over 40 years.
"There's excitement about him coming here. As a coach, I'm really looking forward to working with him." Brendan Rodgers, Liverpool manager
In January 2013, Balotelli moved back to Milan but it wasn't a return to Inter, he moved to city rivals AC Milan for about £20 million. He scored 30 goals in only 54 games for AC Milan, which included 2 goals on his debut and 12 goals in his first 13 appearances for the club.
Why is Balotelli called Super Mario?
His nickname was originally given to him by Inter Milan fans when he signed for them in 2007. The name comes from the popular Nintendo video game 'Super Mario' and you can often see Italy fans wearing fancy dress to support their favourite player! He often lives up to expectations by scoring super goals in important games and he is well-known for scoring penalties when under pressure. However, Balotelli has had differences with a number of managers he has played under. He famously fell out with Jose Mourinho when they were at Inter together and he also had problems with Roberto Mancini at Manchester City. Liverpool manager, Brendan Rodgers will need to keep Balotelli's disciplinary problems under control if he wants to see Super Mario scoring goals on the pitch rather than watching with the fans.
"Mario was good fun. I could write a book of 200 pages about my 2 years at Inter with Mario!" Jose Mourinho, who was Balotelli's manager at Inter Milan.
What has Balotelli achieved with Italy?
Balotelli had to wait a long time to play for Italy. He wasn't allowed to play for the Italian youth teams because he didn't have an Italian passport. He was given the opportunity to play for Ghana but he said no. After finally being given Italian citizenship he was allowed to play for the Italian under-21 team. He made his debut for the senior Italian side in August 2010 and scored his first goal for Italy against Poland in November 2011. Balotelli has played in 2 major tournaments with the Italian national team. He helped Italy reach the final of the 2012 European Championships and he scored against England at Brazil 2014.
Balatolli became the first black player to represent Italy at a major football championships and often speaks out against racism in football. He is a supporter of many charities including Doctors without Borders and appears as the hero of a children's book for this charity, which has allowed Balotelli to write about racism and discrimination in football.
" I am proud to be black and Italian. I've learned from my family that no one is 'upside down' simply because he speaks, prays or thinks differently." Mario Balotelli.
Watch a video about Mario Balotelli and his career so far on Liverpool's official website.
What did you understand?
Did you know......?
- Super Mario is huge on social media. @FinallyMario has over 3 million followers on twitter and over 9 million fans on Facebook!
- It took Balotelli only 24 minutes to score on his debut for AC Milan.
- Balotelli has always worn number 45 on his shirt. He says it brings him luck.
- In November 2011, Balotelli got a red card whan playing for Manchester City at Anfield!
- Balotelli is friends with hip-hop star Drake. Balotelli was mentioned in one of Drake's songs and Balotelli dedicated a goal to the rap star.
What do you think?
Will Balotelli be a success at Liverpool?
Do you think he can win another Premier League winners' medal?
Who will score more goals? Balotelli or Daniel Sturridge?
What can we do to stop racism in football?
Leave a message in the comments section below and tell us what you think :)