Even though the eyes of the soccer world are focused on Brazil, the transfer market is heating up back in Europe. One of the hottest rumors floating around England is that Arsenal are interested in signing Mario Balotelli. Depending on what you read, Arsenal new kit sponsors Puma may be willing to offset some of the transfer fee to bring Balotelli back into the Puma fold through Arsenal. The fee is rumored to be around £25 million, a major buy for the Gunners.
For the clubs that just let Cesc Fabregas go to strengthen a rival, does this move make sense? Arsenal have Olivier Giroud and also own the rights to rising World Cup star Joel Campbell, as well as having a buy back option for La Liga success story Carlos Vela (which they may have already declined). Couldn’t they save the money and keep these guys, or sign the cheaper Loic Remy?
The answer is yes. If Arsenal acquires the Italian international, it would help turn them into a legitimate title contender assuming they address a few defensive needs. Balotelli’s skill set is ideal for the Arsenal system — a tall forward with ball skills that can create a shot out of nowhere. Imagine him receiving service from Ozil or the other skilled Arsenal midfielders. And unlike Giroud, he could create a shot on target without the most perfect pass. Watch what Balotelli does on the Azzurri in this World Cup and you can see a preview of how he could fit in on this Arsenal side. Pirlo may be the best at the perfect pass but Ozil isn’t far off. The midfields are somewhat comparable offensively so you can see how he would play at Arsenal.
But with Balotelli, the question is never about talent but about temperament. His track record at the club level is not pretty. But in Italy, he has played on both sides of the Milan derby and was essentially run out of town. Both Inter and Milan have, to put it politely, unsettled constantly managerial situations, where the coaches and staff are under constant media and fan pressure to win. At times, it can be unhealthy, so every misstep by Balotelli is heightened in the media and with the fans. In England, he played for a Manchester City club that was on the rise and in some ways struggled with success. The thought was that Roberto Mancini would be able to “handle” the forward, but in truth Mancini’s status was always up in the air within the club in a “win now” mentality.
There is massive pressure on Arsenal every year from the fans and media, but it is a stable club. Arsene Wenger’s contract extension is an endorsement of his system so there is less managerial turmoil than other places. He also has a history of dealing well with mercurial personalities. He gives some leeway but selectively punishes those transgressions that only impact play on the field. He is comfortable enough at Arsenal that he can manage Balotelli to the point that the “antics” won’t stop by won’t be destructive.