One 2 Watch – Mario Balotelli

Mario Balotelli
18 | Italian | Forward | Inter Milan

Standing at over six foot two inches, he has a distinctive frame matched with a unique ability that has him regarded as one of biggest young talents in Italy today. His intimidating presence is enough to hamper any opposition player; “Super” Mario Balotelli possesses an amazing amount of power and ability for his young age. A tough man to get the ball off of, the attacker is big, yet very skillful, and very proficient with it at his feet. He is not afraid to get the ball in front of him and attack the defender; he is more than capable of beating his man on either side of the field with his dazzling trickery and sublime pace. He’s a “beast, with perfect finesse”.

Club America v Inter Milan

Spotted turning out for Lumezzane in the third tier of Italian football, he was snapped up by Inter at just 16 and quickly broke through to the U20 side. Soon, then-Inter coach Roberto Mancini had given him a first-team debut in the league, followed by a Coppa Italia match in which he scored twice. In this season’s Italian Super Cup final against Roma, Balotelli galvanised his side’s lacklustre performance with a coolly chipped goal. Balotelli has plenty of self belief, and ice-in-the-veins calmness. Despite his young age, he is totally unfazed by playing alongside the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, not to mention against some of Italy’s formidable defences.

Despite his enormous amount of potential, and being branded as one of the biggest up and coming talents in the world of football, Balotelli has come under public criticism from his manager, Jose Mourinho, who believes Mario’s relaxed attitude towards training and hard work is hindering the lad’s progress, and dotting a black mark on his potential ability and reputation. For what talent he has in bagsful, it’s not far without plenty of arrogance.

“I don’t like what he is currently bringing to the team and the way he works during the week. It’s not the right attitude for a young player who needs to arrive… He lacks concentration and motivations. He must change. Continuing like this in this team he will lose opportunities.”

Watching Balotelli you can see a relaxed nature to his game, a kind of “I’m better then you” attitude. Some will criticise that this behaviour doesn’t belong on the field, while others understand it. After all, most top quality players nowadays know they are good, and better than many others around, and Mario knows well how good he is. He adores the limelight, he wants to impress, he wants to be the man of the moment and run away the headlines. It’s not hard to imagine him standing on the training ground, hands on his hips, relaxing. And like a lot of players with this kind of swagger they can easily get frustrated when things don’t go their way. Balotelli has a very short fuse, if he’s not playing up to his standard, he’ll let everyone know about. Mario received no less than ten yellow cards last season, parallel to his goal return for Inter Milan. Balotelli epitomises the modern day football star, when he’s good, he can be very very good, but when he’s not, it can be a very different story. But he’s still in his early tender years, despite his immaturity at times you can’t doubt his enthusiasm and will to do well, the creases have time to be ironed out.

“People think that just because I’m only 18 years old I have to take stick from defenders and keep my mouth shut. But I’m not having that. I stand my ground.”

The 18 year old is not lacking any confidence; he adores the ball at his feet and will try time and time again to take on a defender, sometimes ignoring his teammates in the process, but not all the time for Balotelli has a superb first touch; he can take down a ball out of the air beautifully, and often uses this to Inter’s advantage by trying a creative first time lay-off to a teammate, be it caressing it down to a player close by or trying a more difficult flick over the defence, and more often than not it turns out perfectly. Also, despite his reluctance to use a teammate most of the time and his relatively low pass percentage rate, Super Mario sometimes can pull off an absolute cracker of a long range, or through ball pass, making it look terribly easy. But it’s rare. He has great vision for a front man to target some of the passes he’s made, but to be fair to him, despite it’s rarity, it’s usually that penetrating pass that can create an attack, break the shield of defence, and send his man through.

Balotelli also possesses a heck of a punch when it comes to free kick taking. Both for his club Inter Milan, as well as the Italy U21 side, Balotelli is always keen to take on the set piece duty, and rifled home a forty yard free kick against Israel for his nation. Mario is also fairly accurate with his corner taking, too, but what is his favoured position?

He is an attacker, first of all, and seems to interchange from the left, to the right and even drift into the centre, utilizing his target man traits. But thanks to his pace and dribbling ability, he’s often deployed out wide. He loves to wander in from either side to have a pop at goal. For Italy, especially, he is part of a three piece forward line, and usually swaps over from the left and right side now and again with teammate Sebastian Giovinco. Balotelli can be hazardous coming in off the by-line and having a pop on goal from the corner of the box, or taking on his man and playing a ball in. He has amazingly quick feet, and enjoys a stepover or four, and neat trickery to embarrass his opponent. You could argue he is a better wide man than anything, but Mario has the presence, and tactical nous to operate anywhere across the front line. He certainly is a one to watch.

Star Quality: ★★★★☆

The Author

Kevin Coleman

Founder and co-editor of Back Page Football and current host of our 'Three At The Back' weekly podcast.

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