When Mario Balotelli was granted a free transfer to French club Nice in the summer, most people were not expecting much from the former Liverpool misfit. After all, the Italian striker departed Merseyside after netting just four goals in 28 total appearances. He spent two years as a Red, but managed only one full season at Anfield before being sent on loan to AC Milan for the 2015/16 campaign (which was equally as disastrous).
While the occasional Italy international endured a tough couple of seasons, he is now playing much like the old Super Mario in the French Riviera with Nice. Multiple injuries (as well as a trio of red card suspensions) have prevented Balotelli from playing the full amount of games so far; however, the striker has performed well when on the pitch for Les Aiglons. The one-time phenom has managed to score 13 goals in 23 total matches for Nice this season. This impressive output includes hitting the back of the net 11 times in just 16 Ligue 1 starts.
Balotelli, along with the outstanding play from Wylan Cyprien, Jean Michael Seri, and Alassane Plea, has helped catapult the French club into the Ligue 1 title race. Nice are currently four points behind league-leading Monaco, and only one point away from French giants Paris Saint-Germain. Although times are great at Nice right now, the club need to re-sign Balotelli beyond the 2016/17 season.
The Italian’s current contract runs out in June, and despite temptations to leave for a more prestigious team, Balotelli should stay in France and build on what he is accomplishing with Nice. Of course money will play a significant part in the negotiations with the club. Nice goalkeeper Yoan Cardinale claimed that the striker wants to remain in Nice, if the price is right. “[Mario] told me that he would like to stay. That at Nice there are all the right ingredients for him to stay,” Cardinale recently explained to RMC.
“He is very joyful here. He sees that a great footballing project is being put in place. I know that it will be very difficult because from a salary perspective, a player like Balotelli, he is expensive. But if the club is capable of meeting his demands, he will stay very happily.”
Aside from the monetary aspect of any potential deal, Balotelli should remain with Nice because he is fitting in very well with the club. The striker has always had the talent to play practically anywhere, but fit seems to be a very important aspect of his game. He previously put together two solid seasons with Milan from 2012-2014, and then made the regrettable transfer to Liverpool – a team where he did not exactly fit well with (Hatem Ben Arfa’s move to PSG is another example).