Could Mario Balotelli Solve Chelsea's Striker Crisis?

Dan LeveneFeatured ColumnistMarch 6, 2014

--  FILE -- In this photo taken on Friday, April 16, 2010 Inter Milan forward Mario Balotelli , left and coach Jose' Mourinho, of Portugal, look away from each other during a Serie A soccer match between Inter Milan and Juventus, at the San Siro stadium in Milan, Italy. 19-year-old forward Mario Balotelli, threw his jersey to the ground after being whistled at by fans and stormed angrily off the field while his teammates celebrated after winning a Champions league semifinal first leg match against Barcelona Tuesday, April 20, 2010. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
Luca Bruno/Associated Press

With Jose Mourinho desperate to replace his misfiring strikers at Chelsea, could The Special One be set for an unlikely reunion with Mario Balotelli?

The Blues' boss fed the rumour mill, perhaps inadvertently, with his quizzical comment that "in football you never know the future" when asked if the AC Milan man might be Chelsea-bound (as reported by the Evening Standard).

But surely there can be no way back for the striker famously branded "unmanageable" (as Simon Mullock reports here in The Mirror) by Mourinho?

Certainly, Balotelli has been the subject of many headlines of late, which would suggest those advising him have their collective eye on a move.

The Premier League will always be in pole position to take a player like the 23-year-old—given he already has experience there, and that it is the place Balotelli would find the highest wages.

His speed, size and competitive instincts all make him ideal for English football—doubly ideal for a Mourinho side, you might think.

But surely there can be no going back for Mourinho on the "unmanageable" man?

Well, the coach may be famously headstrong, but that doesn't mean he's not one for changing his opinion of a player.

He recently spoke of how Samuel Eto'o insisted he was the only coach in the world for whom he would never play (as reported in the Guardian), only for the Cameroonian to be paired with him at both Inter and Chelsea.

The boot was on the other foot in that case—player shunning manager, rather than the other way around. But it proves, at least, that Mourinho can forgive (if not entirely forget).

Ultimately, whether or not Balotelli ends up at Chelsea will come down to more than mere personalities. It will depend on whether or not he can cut it on the pitch.

Mourinho has often talked about the 20-plus-goals-a-season man missing from his squad and, while the Italian is fondly remembered by some Manchester City fans as a target man, the reality is slightly different.

His highest campaign return was the 13 goals he netted for City in the 2011-12 Premier League. Would that be enough to turn Mourinho's head?

Given the dismal personal tallies of Eto'o and Fernando Torres, perhaps it would.

But with Mourinho pretty adamant about the need for that 20-plus-goal man, Balotelli's record would probably relegate him to the status of a second- or third-choice option.

And for how long would either party be content with that situation?