Mario Balotelli has not quite had the effect that Milan anticipated since joining on loan from Liverpool, casting doubts over his future.
Reports in the past couple of days have emerged from various sources saying that the Rossoneri are unlikely to make a move to sign the boyhood Milan fan on a permanent basis.
Should we really be surprised though? Mario has played 10 times for Milan in all competitions and has scored just twice, one of which was a penalty against Alessandria in the Coppa Italia.
Everyone was excited about the return of Balotelli, a favourite son of the Diavolo, but the move was also met with scrutiny about whether it was the right decision given the Italian’s somewhat sketchy past.
All that was overlooked by the management. They felt he deserved another chance, another investment of faith. In return, we were all expecting Balo to repay that faith with goals and the same dynamic performances we were used to in his first spell.
Upon rejoining, Mario proclaimed: “I haven’t forgotten how to play football. I am no longer a kid. I’ve wasted too many chances.
“I feel like someone who has put the first part of his career to one side. Played and lived like a boy.”
There was no question that his best season as a player was during the 2013-14 season with Milan, where he bagged 26 in 43. This was in comparison to the 20 in 54 he scored for Manchester City and the 20 in 59 he got for Internazionale.
An explosive player at the best of times, both on and off the field, and Milan were hoping he could bring his on-field abilities back to San Siro.
We all know what he can bring, too. An eye for goal, great touch, vision, a killer shot and an ability to grab a game by the scruff of the neck at any point.
However, aside from the game ‘away’ at Inter earlier in the season, Mario Balotelli has been nothing short of frustrating to watch in a Rossoneri shirt.
After this game, coach Sinisa Mihajlovic was highly complementary of the forward.
Mihajlovic said: “He was perfect, the best player on the pitch. He made a real difference and I’m happy with that, but he has to continue doing so.
“The real Balotelli has returned, and he can now handle the provocation.”
That shift he put in against the Nerazzurri almost got Milan a deserved point, with a barrage of long range attempts that only the miracle of Samir Handanovic was equal to.
Since then, with injury problems galore, Mario has flattered to deceive slightly. We all want him to come good, but the question is how long will that take?
In a Twitter poll we conducted over at @SempreMilanCom, 56% of people said they would not consider signing the 25-year-old permanently, while 28% said they would only do so if it was a free transfer.
Only 16% of the 55 voters (at the time of writing) said they would sign him on a permanent deal. One wonders what the result would have been if the poll was conducted after the first Inter match.
It seems no matter what Mario does, he can’t win.