The newly-promoted side Brescia Calcio have signed hometown hero Mario Balotelli. He was a free agent after his contract with Ligue 1 side Olympique Marseille.
According to the club’s official website, bresciacalco.it, “The footballer has signed a multi-year contract with the Rondinelle.” While there has been no official release yet regarding his salary, during negotiations, it was reported that he would make a base salary of €1.5 million, with bonuses added on based on performances.
This also marks a return to his native Italy for the 29-year-old striker. He is a product of the Lumezzane youth system, located in a province of Brescia. From there he signed with Inter Milan and later played with AC Milan as well, both clubs also located in the same Italian region as Brescia.
In between playing for both Milanese clubs, Balotelli also notably played for both Manchester City and then later with Liverpool in England. He then played for both OGC Nice and Olympique Marseille in France.
During his press conference, Balotelli talked about how it was his late father’s dream that he should wear the Brescia jersey, as his father was a native of Brescia. Balotelli said, “Brescia is my hometown, I cannot compare it to any other club in the world. I also, naturally, want to get back into the Italy squad and it’s important to be here.”
Balotelli became the scapegoat for Italy’s poor performance in the World Cup 2014 in Brazil, but Italy failed to even qualify without him in 2018. Many believe he is still Italy’s best striker. While most national team call-ups are based on performance and merit, Balotelli has been noticeably left out by multiple Italy managers, even while playing well for his club teams.
Controversy and abuse
Balotelli’s playing career has been riddled with controversy, consisting mainly off the pitch issues, a level of controversy which has been further fueled by a phenomenal and unhealthy interest in him by the media. The player himself has increased controversy through certain actions and his use of social media over the years.
He has also been the target of much racial abuse, particularly in Italy. The abuse included such statements as “There’s no such thing as a black Italian,” even though Balotelli was born and raised entirely in Italy. The abuse wasn’t only limited to while he was playing, though, as fans would sing chants against him when he wasn’t even in the stadium, even at youth team matches of rival clubs.
Performance on the pitch
All of the controversy and abuse has absolutely impacted the playing career of a man who once showed so much promise. His speed and strength are so impressive, and his determination and finishing stand out against his peers as well. At 6’2” (1.89 meters) he is literally head and shoulders above everyone else and is a physical threat on every level. Perhaps his best year was at AC Milan, where he dominated with 26 goals in 43 matches. More recently, at Marseille, he scored eight goals and had one assist in twelve appearances for the French club.
Balotelli has seen controversy on the pitch from time to time with straight red cards. Most recently, his straight red card in May while playing for Marseille saw him given a four-match ban, which will impact his Serie A season, causing him to miss the first four fixtures for Brescia.
For Balotelli, coming home means so much to him personally. Not only in the Brescia jersey but also to be able to represent his nation again. For Brescia, it means that they have signed a player who can take them to the next level competitively.