Celtic have certainly been busy when it comes to signing quality forwards under the management of Brendan Rodgers, having already permanently signed Moussa Dembele plus securing Charly Musonda and Odsonne Edouard on long-term loans. Now the club have announced perhaps the biggest deal of the Rodgers era so far with the pre-contract agreement they have reached with Italian international Mario Balotelli.
The contract is reportedly a 3 year deal with a mutual option for another season and is believed to be worth over £80,000 per week which will see Balotelli become the top-earner at Celtic Park and may have a ripple effect with some of his new team-mates perhaps now looking for improved contracts.
The Italian star has spent two very good recent seasons in Ligue 1 playing for Nice and no-one has ever questioned his talent but finally the player seems to be able to focus and deliver on his undeniable promise.
Balotelli has been an enigma having periods in his career where has operated as one of the best strikers in the world and then other periods where he could not buy a goal. The Italian is very well-known all around the world as much for his off the field antics as for his play on the field.
Rodgers is clearly banking on managing to get the best from Balotelli which he did not manage the first time he had the young striker under him at Liverpool. The player is undoubtedly massively talented but to say the least he also usually comes with a bunch of off-field drama.
On his Man City debut Balotelli sensationally came off the bench to score the winner as Man City beat Romanian club Politehnica Timișoara 1–0 in the Europa League. The controversial striker was constantly in the news during his 2 and a 1/2 year stint at the Etihad but he was an important player in City’s breakthrough Premier League title win in the 2011-11 season despite being banned and kept out of the team for disciplinary reasons for much of the campaign. He was a big part of the team that won the title on the last day of the season as he supplied the assist for Sergio Aguero’s winner against QPR after coming on as a late sub and the win sealed the deal for Mancini’s men.
After all the incidents including putting on a fire-works show in his bathroom at his Manchester mansion and his numerous yellow and red cards, it is his legendary goal celebration where he revealed his t-shirt with the question “Why Always Me?” after his scored the first goal in City’s famous 6-1 win over United that has made him most famous. Balotelli was unplayable in that match and set the tone for the now famous win at Old Trafford in October 2011.
It did not last at Man City however, as after one training ground bust-up too many and attitudinal issues Balotelli was fined by the club and after a legal battle and numerous missed games the player returned to Italy on a 4 and a half year deal in the winter of the 2012-13 season this time moving to AC Milan where again he bagged 2 goals on his debut including the late winner as Milan beat Udinese. Balotelli bagged 16 goals after his winter move for AC Milan and looked to be getting back to his best.
Balotelli continued doing well in Italy, scoring 19 goals in 43 appearances in the 2013-14 season but when the Premier League came calling again he could not resist the attraction as he joined Liverpool under Brendan Rodgers for the 2014-15 season to replace Luis Suarez.
To say that Balotelli struggled at Liverpool would be the understatement of the century as he got into more disciplinary problems this time for posting anti-semitic images on social media receiving a £25,000 fine and a one game ban. After a paltry 4 goal return from 28 appearances in a Liverpool shirt the Italian rejoined AC Milan on a year’s loan for 2015-16 campaign.
After an underwhelming spell back in Italy with 1 goal in 20 league games; Balotelli returned to Liverpool but was completely sidelined by Jurgen Klopp who clearly was not a fan of the controversial striker and did not feature him in the 2016 pre-season at all.
Balotelli moved to Nice in France’s Ligue 1 on a free-transfer late in the transfer window and after his nightmare at Liverpool he looked to be returning to form as he scored an impressive 17 goals in just 28 appearances along with 10 yellow cards and 3 red cards and took the club to the Champions League qualifying round only to fall short against Ajax and ending up in the Europa League.
Backing up his debut season in Ligue 1, so far this campaign, the Italian has bagged a fine 21 goals in only 29 games again showing his talent all while continuing his aggressive approach on the field as he has so far received 11 yellows and 1 red card.
So based on his recent form in France where he led Nice to a top 4 finish last season and he is scoring for fun again this season it seems like Balotelli has matured and so Brendan Rodgers making such an early move to land his man shows how seriously the management are about the Italian. Since Celtic will only be paying a minor compensation fee to Nice the club’s board clearly agreed with the manager on this signing despite the huge contract given to Balotelli.
Seeing Mario Balotelli (still only 27 years old) in the green and white hoops of Celtic is going to be very interesting but you may have to wait a while longer as this story is a satirical piece – have a laugh on April Fool’s Day!! If you were reading this article not being able to comprehend how Celtic could splash such cash on such a unpredictable player, your concerns were warranted as this deal could NEVER happen could it?