I’m a big big fan of Mario Balotelli. There, I said it!
Having supported Liverpool ever since I can remember, the arrival of the big Italian was extremely pleasing. Still only 24 years of age, Super Mario has experienced plenty of ups and downs throughout his life.
At the age of three, Balotelli’s biological parents took the decision to hand their son over to foster parents. The emotional embrace with his foster mother in Euro 2012 after Italy’s semi-final win over Germany showed a different side to his character.
For a few minutes, gone was the mischievous firework-enthusiast and “Why Alwaye Me?” Balotelli as the world marvelled at the love and affection the young man showed to the woman who raised him. That game in the summer of 2012 was a turning point for Balotelli as he showed once and for all that he can deliver the goods on the big stage.
His career since then has been, similar to his life in general, full of joys and woes. However, his move to Liverpool was seen as a final chance for Balotelli to truly show his worth. His stay at Manchester City showed flashes of brilliance on the pitch but was ultimately overshadowed with numerous off-field issues.
His Liverpool career has only recently showed true signs of promise as he scored winners against Tottenham Hotspur and Besiktas in the past couple of weeks. Nevertheless, the “Why Always Me?” Balotelli was back in the Europa League on Thursday as the Italian demanded to take the penalty won by Jordon Ibe in the final minutes of the encounter.
Rather curiously, Jordan Henderson was apparently the designated penalty taker for the match. Yes, Henderson, the man who has the grand total of ZERO penalties scored in his senior career. A late penalty in a crucial European game was hardly the ideal place for him to change the record.
Consequently, most Liverpool fans, myself included, breathed a huge sigh of relief when Balotelli demanded the ball to take the kick himself. Captain Steven Gerrard and a whole other bunch of pundits criticised the Italian with Jamie Carragher seeming the only one defending the Italian. Personally, I think Gerrard made a big mistake by publicly criticizing a teammate, especially Balotelli who has clearly been doing his best to change his bad boy image on Merseyside.
Interestingly, no one criticised Daniel Sturridge for also wanting to take the kick. Sturridge also wasn’t designated to take the kick and he doesn’t boast the record of 28 penalties scored from a total of 30 that Balotelli does. The Italian actually scored all of his first 26 penalties before then missing two in succession in 2013 whilst at AC Milan.
Thus, Henderson’s decision to let him take the penalty actually made a lot of sense and at the end of the day he handled the situation well. The same can’t be said for Gerrard. A legend he may be, but he should have bit his tongue in public.
Nevertheless, the final line is Balotelli scored and Liverpool won for the first time in six European matches. I for one believe he deserves most of the credit for that.
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