Mario Balotelli to Chelsea: Smart or Not?
It's January – don’t believe anything; but this rumour’s worth giving some lines to.
AC Milan striker Mario Balotelli could be frustrated, could be looking to move, and Chelsea might be on his shortlist of teams. We all know Chelsea need goals from strikers, thus the rumour makes sense, and it’s making the rounds.
There are five components to this supposed rumour: Mario Balotelli, José Mourinho, Roman Abramovich, the media and the Stamford Bridge faithful -- allow us to sort through them and reach a conclusion.
The 23 year-old is football's chief lightning rod; and it's his own doing. While surpassingly talented, Balotelli is his own worst enemy, and will continue to be until he's not. If the Italian international doesn't mature, the talent we all know resides in him will never reach its full potential -- which is a shame really. His previous job history would make him seem rather nomadic. Having donned the world-class kits of Inter Milan, Manchester City and AC Milan within the space of five years, Chelsea would make four. It would seem a pattern of sorts -- similar to that of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, whose Swedish boots must have graced every blade of grass in Europe by now.
What Balotelli needs is a home -- a club/city that will accept him for himself, and work with him -- not against him. Super Mario’s time in Manchester City looked an exercise in how to keep him quiet and tempered rather than getting him to score goals. If you want the goals he's sure to provide, you must accept the antics which accompany them -- it's that simple.
All-in-all having dealt with the likes of Didier Drogba, Nicolas Anelka, John Terry, Ashley Cole and other assorted characters along the way, Chelsea Football Club's had experience dealing with larger-than-life personalities over the past decade or so -- and for the most part have come out on top. Balotelli's a circus for sure, but nothing to be scared of -- just something of which to be cognisant before starting a relationship.
A man well aware of the "Circo de Balotelli” is his former manager, and current Chelsea boss, José Mourinho. At Inter Milan their relationship would have been ticked: "It's Complicated" were Facebook terminology allowed. Mourinho definitely had his struggles with the Italian youngster, but despite them, the teenager played in 71 matches (with 21 goals) in two years for the Portuguese, so he obviously saw the potential.
After verbal flurries in the press and suspending him from Inter’s first team in 2009, you wonder if Mourinho sees Balotelli as an unconquered obstacle from the past, and would like another bite at the apple? Not to mention, Balotelli's tailor-made for the way Mourinho likes his strikers to play. Linking attacks, being clinical and being a nuisance to oppositional defenses are both hallmarks of the role and Balotelli’s skill set. His set-piece/penalty proficiency, defensive "want-to" and on-ball trickery are added bonuses to the Portuguese boss, considering the wingers and midfielders Chelsea possess.
The decision to bring Balotelli to Stamford Bridge would almost certainly be initiated by Mourinho. The self-proclaimed: "Special One" would have to want the task of corralling the striker, and at the same time, work with him to get the desired result of winning football matches. The Chelsea manager isn't afraid to bench players or talk about them in the press - Iker Casillas and Juan Mata being recent examples - so the fireworks that could go off should Balotelli think his minutes are on a diet could spell disaster for the player, manager and club. On the other hand (the optimistic-other-hand), should both parties come to an understanding the team’s been called "Chelsea Football Club" since 1905, and not "Balotelli FC" or “Mourinho FC,” everyone involved would stand to benefit.
The man with the money, the Holy Roman Emperor, the Russian billionaire who's graced West London with his money and presence would have a decision to make. Unlike other owners around the country (cough: “Vincent Tan”), the Chelsea premier at the very least understands the game; and as such would know his side need goals badly. Chelsea fans would be plain greedy by saying Abramovich should spend more money on their team. If he were to sell Chelsea right now, he would have poured more than £1 billion (with a “B”) into the club; including paying off debt, acquiring players and managers, extending the global marketing platform and infrastructure upgrades that will last for decades to come. Chelsea fans should be more than content, but clamor for players they think will bring the club greater success -- more times than not they are marquee names, and come heavy fees.
Mario Balotelli would be a huge gamble. Valued at **£26.5M, he would not be the most expensive transfer the Russian has allowed, but he could be the most expensive in terms of patience (rivaling only Fernando Torres). Knowing the Italian striker won't easily be marshaled and could bring the wrong types of headlines to King’s Road, Abramovich has to weigh whether or not the goals his side needs are worth the drama Balotelli’s strikes bring.
Being a billionaire must include risk. A key deal here, a "yes" there, or a "no" to certain situations are what fortunes are built on; if Chelsea are to become a European force, on par with the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona and Manchester United, players with world-class quality and charisma have to be on the team sheet. Balotelli has both. It would be in the hands of Mourinho's boss to pony up the cash should the manager suggest an interest. After some deep and seemingly emotionless thought, you'd think he would.
Super Mario's relationship with the media isn't a good one. To be fair it's not all their fault. When Balotelli does stupid things, people want to sell papers off it – it’s capitalism; the same capitalism which pays his salary. That being said if the media want to sell more papers, maybe they shouldn't run people out of the country to avoid them. There's a balance to be had. If you run a reputation through the mud, and/or flood the market with the same stories -- people become sick of it.
The media want the transfer to happen otherwise they wouldn't report the rumour. Balotelli’s a polarising personality. You love him or hate him; but either way you want to know what he's up to. If Balotelli wants a return to England he would surly be accepting the fact the media will hound him, but if/when he realises he brings most of the attention on himself and adjusts accordingly, his profile both on the pitch and off it will greatly diminish.
Having recently signed a boot deal with Puma, his standing in the court of public opinion will need to remain positive for the relationship to continue. If reputation weren’t enough to maintain one's sanity, you'd accept millions of pounds would be.
An easy component this.
Stamford Bridge wants goals and players who work for the shirt. If Balotelli scores -- they'll clap him off, and want him to play. If he puts in a shift -- they'll clap him off, and want him to play.
If he does neither: "Where's Romelu?" or "Buy Falcao!" will be on their lips.
It's a fickle world we live in, but one we love.
The club structure is secure enough; Mourinho can stay as long as he wants provided he wins the odd trophy (BPL, FA Cup and UCL being the targets); the owner loves the club and can take the hit to his wallet comfortably -- so it looks a smart buy.
The dressing rooms bears the likes of John Terry, Frank Lampard and Branislav Ivanović who will demand professionalism -- if he isn't playing well or acting in a mature fashion, Chelsea will always have options.
Balotelli's upside is too good to pass up should he become available. We say buy him -- at 23 years of age if he works you’ll have eight years of 20+ goals a season; if he doesn't, you’ll have four years to sell him on.
**MV estimated by Tramsfermarkt on 19 June 2013
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