Mario Balotelli's Brilliant Brace Hints at the Force AC Milan Could Soon Become
What a way to start his AC Milan career. A rapturous reception followed by a fearless display of attacking intent, with a small sprinkling of controversy at the end for good measure. Oh, Mario Balotelli, how Italy's missed you!
A muscular issue meant that Giampaolo Pazzini had to relinquish his starting berth to Balo, who you could say is another muscular problem that Pazzini won't be able to fix with a trip to the physio.
Listening to the San Siro sing the new arrival's name, and watching him almost score within the first minute of the game, the 28-year-old Pazzini will likely have felt a certain amount of dread. He was, after all, looking at the man who threatens to block his way not only in the Milan shirt, but in the Italy one, too.
Balo's relationship with Stephan El Shaarawy already seems excellent—the two worked flawlessly for the first goal—and should only get better with time. Likewise, his link-up with young Frenchman M'Baye Niang throughout was superb.
And though even his own manager has since admitted that the controversial penalty that was awarded in stoppage time was unfairly given, Super Mario could only do what was asked of him and slot the winner home. Udinese's Thomas Heurtaux won the ball cleanly in his tackle on El Shaarawy, but fair or not, netting from the spot on your debut is no mean feat for a young striker.
Perhaps the loss was unfair to Udinese, who played well throughout. But for the Rossoneri, the hard-fought win might kick-start a problematic season and possibly even herald in a new age.
Of course, even before Balotelli signed for Milan, Massimiliano Allegri and Adriano Galliani were hard at work. Having seen the Rossoneri become a final resting place for past-it superstars, owner Silvio Berlusconi has allowed Galliani to completely overhaul the squad, turning it into one of the most youthful and exciting in Europe.
Mario's addition, however, is the spark that should set the fire. At just 22, he's already one of the world's most talked-about footballers. He has bags of experience from his time at Inter and Manchester City—where he got used to winning trophies, too—and he's got the star quality to start riots in downtown Milan and get the jerseys selling like hot cakes.
Balotelli's arrival in Milan was headline news across the continent. His debut was five-star. Setting the bar so incredibly high so early in a career is not something a lot of player's would want, but Balo's not like a lot of players. He was born to be the centre of attention, and his undeniable talent always seems to shine brightest when it's under the spotlight.
There's sure to be some ups and downs, but as he matures, you'd hope the highs will outnumber the lows. And if every so often he has to make headlines off the pitch, too, well that's just part of the fun.
So from time to time he might still wonder, "why always me?," but we already know the answer: because there's no one else like him.
Welcome home, Mario.
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