After penning a contract with FC Sion, former Italian forward Mario Balotelli made his debut in the Swiss Super League on Saturday. The two-year deal is worth €2.6 million.

Balotelli’s arrival on the field at Tourbillon Stadium in Switzerland was the match highlight. Roars from the home crowd welcomed the Ghanian Italian. Balotelli came on as a substitute in the 65th minute of the second half against Basel. The former Azzurri striker replaced Filip Stojilković – who scored the first goal of the match 17 minutes after kickoff on a corner kick assist by French midfielder Denis-Will Poha.

In the second half, Balotelli came on to the Valais field after Basel equalized the match on a header by Dutch midfielder Wouter Burger. Though unable to score a goal in Sion’s 2-1 victory, the number 45 Balotelli made his presence known, and conceded a yellow card in the penultimate minute of stoppage time.

A Storied History

Balotelli climbed his career’s summit between 2007 and 2014. In that interim, he scored 66 goals for Inter, Manchester City, and AC Milan combined. In conjunction with his club career, Euro 2012 highlighted Balotelli’s international performance when Italy became runners-up. After that, however, the narrative of his career unraveled with controversy. A tenure pinned with criticisms of squandering his talent due to his personal life took the spotlight over his career. Ultimately, Balotelli struck 14 goals in 36 caps with the Azzurri. However, the striker has alluded to making a comeback, revitalizing his career.

Moreover, Mario Balotelli has been a journeyman. Since he commenced his senior career with Lumezzane in 2006, his signing with FC Sion will be his eleventh club in his career. Nevertheless, Balotelli’s stint with Nice between 2016-2019 showed promise. There, he slotted 33 goals in 61 caps for the French Ligue 1 team. As Balotelli transitions onto FC Sion, his latest transfer comes with its advantages.

Coaching Controversies at FC Sion

Remarkably, the president of FC Sion has hired and fired dozens of managers since obtaining ownership. Yet, despite the fickle nature of the club, FC Sion has had its share of success. The Swiss outfit has been crowned Swiss champions four times in the past two decades.

Moreover, Sion’s ownership has had an affinity for Italian management, with former World Cup winners Gennaro Gattuso – who served as interim manager for one month in 2013, and Fabio Grosso – whose stint lasted for one season in 2020/21. In addition, Claudio Gentile – the 1982 World Cup Champion – also served as an interim manager for the club, but for one week in 2014.

Player & Coach Rapport

The 6’3″ forward Balotelli is coached by compatriot Paolo Tramezzani, the former Italian defender who played for several clubs across Serie divisions. Tramezzani managed various teams before landing the gig at Sion in 2021. The rapport between player and coach at Sion will play in Balotelli’s favor, as he looks to showcase his skills in a league where he can express his play. However, the Swiss club is notoriously known for its high turnover rate of head coaches. Sion has fired over twenty managers in nine seasons.

Nevertheless, the 32-year-old Ghanaian Italian joined a club that finished seventh place in the 2021/22 Swiss Super League. Moreover, FC Sion’s biggest win in the 2022/23 season came against defending champions, FC Zurich. A 3-0 shutout at Letzigrund Stadium against Zurich gives Tramezzani the edge for the remainder of the season. In addition, their most recent triumph over Basel has Sion tied for third in standings.

With three wins, two draws, and two losses, Balotelli looks to revive his career and lead Sion to another league championship.

Photo credit: IMAGO / Frédéric Dubuis