It’s the news that will no doubt electrify Liverpool fans ahead of what is set to be an unpredictable Premier League season. As a flurry of transfers are agreed throughout the summer transfer window and major rivals bolster their squads with potential league winners, Jurgen Klopp can rest easy in the knowledge that he has a future Balon d’Or winner returning to his ranks.
The key word here is returning. As passionately as the Anfield crowd would welcome a big name Balon d’Or signing by the name of Neymar, Pogba or Griezmann, Liverpool’s lack of Champions League football may well struggle to attract such prime talent. But do not despair, Liverpool fans, there’s always Mario Balotelli – future Balon d’Or winner.
The former Italian international has returned to Liverpool for pre-season following a disappointing season on loan at former club AC Milan. Despite a tortuous campaign, Balotelli’s confidence doesn’t appear to have been dented one bit. The enigmatic striker says he still expects to win the Ballon d’Or, admitting he has been below par in recent years.
Balotelli signed for Liverpool under Brendan Rodgers’ reign two years ago in a £16million deal, hoping to fill the void left by Luis Suarez. The Italian failed to make a positive impression, managing just four goals in 28 appearances before being shipped out to Milan to reassess his career.
The 25-year-old insists that his poor form is merely a blip on the way to him being crowned the best player in the world and that his second spell at Anfield will propel him to his destined greatness:
“In my view there weren’t enough expectations put on me, as I can do so much more than what I said. But it takes time,
“On the scale of 0 to 10, I stopped at five, but I’ll get to 10 eventually. I want to get there. I will win the Ballon d’Or.
“I do realise that I’ve spent two years of my career when I could’ve been getting closer to 10 and instead stayed at five.
“I know, the Ballon d’Or might seem laughable and I might not have done everything to be the best, but the important thing is I realised it’s not too late.”
In two years Balotelli has managed just seven goals in all competitions, hardly a record that will be ruffling any feathers at FIFA’s headquarters in Switzerland. The former Manchester City man will be hoping for a return to the excellent form that prompted Rodgers to bring him to Merseyside. Balotelli joined Liverpool after 18 goals in his 2013/14 Serie A Milan campaign.
“Up until two years ago I made do with what I had. I did well, knew I could play, so I was happy. It wasn’t in my mind to improve, as I thought that was enough.
“Over the last two years I started working seriously, yet the results did not arrive. Maybe I am paying the price for the previous 23 years.
“I am relaxed, though, as I am aware that in the last two years things have changed completely.”
Balotelli has returned to training at Melwood early after being left out of the Italian Euro 2016 squad. Liverpool’s star-studded training group contained Mamadou Sakho, Lazar Markovic and Luis Alberto, lined-up alongside Mario – all of whom have the same chance of winning the Balon d’Or in 2017.