Romelu Lukaku's return to Inter Milan was completed on Wednesday, but the Belgian will wear a different number in his second spell at the club. Meanwhile, PSG's new kit sponsor is perfect for Messi.
Mario Balotelli is an Italian soccer player who currently plays for AC Monza in Italy's Serie B, having left Brescia in the summer of 2020. The striker is known as a talented player who has sometimes not got the best out of his abilities. Blessed with skill and pace, he has enjoyed sporadic success but rarely performed to a consistent level. Balotelli has won eight domestic trophies during his career, including three Serie A titles, one Coppa Italia and the Champions League with Inter Milan. He also won the Premier League and FA Cup while at Manchester City.
Having started his career at Lumezzane in 2006, Balotelli's talent was soon recognised and he moved to Inter. Success followed but it was also the start of many controversies that have dogged his career. He moved to Manchester City to rejoin former Inter boss Roberto Mancini after falling out with Inter chief Jose Mourinho. A training ground bust-up with the City manager saw him move to AC Milan where he remained for 18 months. A switch to Liverpool followed but that lasted just one season after further off-field incidents. Balotelli moved back to AC Milan on loan for one unsuccessful season before settling at French club Nice.
Balotelli, Manchester City and the Premier League
Balotelli joined Manchester City from Inter for £24million in August 2010, with City boss Mancini willing to take a chance on the controversial star. He scored on his debut in the Europa League against Romanian side FC Politehnica Timisoara, but suffered a knee injury in the same match that required surgery and kept him out for two months. He scored his first Premier League goal against West Brom in November 2010. However, he also received the first of four red cards while at City during the game for violent conduct.
He celebrated winning the Golden Boy Award by scoring a first Premier League hat-trick against Aston Villa in late December. He was sent off for the second time that season in a Europa League game with Dynamo Kyiv but the campaign ended on a positive note with a man-of-the-match display as City beat Stoke 1-0 to lift the FA Cup.
The 2011/12 campaign was his most successful at the Etihad Stadium and ended with Balotelli receiving a Premier League winner's medal. He scored 13 league goals and 17 in all competitions, becoming a firm fans' favourite along the way. Highlights included scoring twice as City thrashed rivals Manchester City 6-1 in October 2011 while he scored his first Champions League goal for the club against Villarreal.
Despite scoring twice against Sunderland in March, he fell foul of Mancini once more when arguing with Aleksandar Kolarov over who should take a free kick. Two yellow cards saw him dismissed against Arsenal in April, receiving a three-match ban. It prompted an angry Mancini to say that he would not play again that season.
A tough time at Liverpool
Balotelli joined Liverpool from AC Milan in the summer of 2014 for £16m. He was seen as the natural successor to Luis Suarez but the move turned out to be a disaster. The fans were divided on whether it was good business and he scored his first goal in Liverpool's Champions League victory over Ludogorets Razgrad. However, he was seen to swap shirts with opposition player Pepe at half time, angering manager Brendan Rodgers.
In December of that year he was suspended for one match and fined £25,000 for a social media post which appeared to contain racist and anti-Semitic references. His first league goal did not arrive until his 13th appearance in February 2015. A return of just four goals from 28 appearances led some to label him Liverpool's worst signing of the season. His soured relationship with Rodgers saw the striker move back to Milan on loan in the summer of 2015 to end a tumultuous and unsuccessful spell at Anfield.
Mario Balotelli with Italian clubs
Things came to a head between Mourinho and Balotelli ahead of the second leg of Inter's Champions League tie with Chelsea. An altercation between the pair saw him left out of the squad while he was criticised by some of his team-mates. Booed by his own fans during the Champions League semi-final clash with Barcelona in April 2010, Balotelli threw his shirt to the ground and a few months later he left to join Man City.
AC Milan paid Man City £19m to sign the forward in January 2013 and he made an immediate impact with the San Siro club. Having scored 12 goals in 13 outings during the second half of 2012/13, it seemed as though he was set for a long stay at the club. The 2013/14 season saw a return of 18 goals from 41 appearances, prompting Liverpool to pay for his services that summer.
He joined Brescia on a free transfer in August 2019, with a clause in his contract allowing automatic renewal of his deal if the club avoided relegation. He did manage to notch five goals from 19 appearances but was again subjected to racist abuse while playing. A match against Hellas Verona was held up for several minutes after he picked up the ball and kicked it into the stands in response to the racist chanting. His team-mates persuaded him not to leave the pitch and he went on to score in the game.
Balotelli's international career
Balotelli made his first senior appearance for Italy in a friendly against Ivory Coast in August 2010. He scored his first goal in 2011 and was selected for their Euro 2012 squad. Although not without criticism for his displays, he ended the tournament as Italy's joint-top scorer with three goals.
Personal life and controversies
At Man City, the British tabloid newspapers had a field day. Reports emerged that he was involved in a car crash while carrying £5,000 in cash, telling police he had the money because he was "rich". He also allegedly threw darts at a youth team player just for fun and set his house on fire when letting a firework off inside the property. The later incident prompted him to celebrate a goal against Man United by revealing a shirt with the words "Why always me?" on it.