When the young Mario Balotelli was plucked away from lower league Lumezzane by Inter, there were already whispers about his incredible potential at a young age.
His reputation almost preceded him, as TIME Magazine even named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world.
What he has actually done on a football field has been overshadowed by a constant media storm about everything from his girlfriends to late-night frolicking and mischievous endeavors.
Balotelli's tenure in England was polarizing at best. A few goals were negated by a steady stream of appearances in the tabloids for committing the most idiotic and petty of disturbances.
He was essentially turned into a media icon, but not for the reasons one would hope for.
Whether it was a case of him awkwardly fumbling through the arduous task of donning a practice bib, or having a firework nearly burn down his bathroom, Balotelli seemed to be at the center of the most shocking news stories on an almost weekly basis.
When Milan snagged him up from England, many were hoping that he'd turn the tide in his career and finally be able to live up to his seemingly limitless potential.
A successful first season ensued, as Balotelli scored 12 goals in 13 appearances, a ratio usually reserved for the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.
|Mario Balotelli Career Transfers|
|Lumezzane to Inter||€150,000|
|Inter to Manchester City||€22m|
|Manchester City to AC Milan||€19m|
Lackluster appearances in some of the big matches and an anonymous display against Atletico Madrid in the recent Champions League clash have led to fan criticism. As a matter of fact, he was whistled throughout Milan's last domestic match against Parma by the San Siro faithful.
The fact that he has also been suspended on multiple occasions for needless fouls and petulant outbursts hasn't been reassuring either.
His stock plummeted at the moment, but the World Cup should dictate his true value as a positive performance with Italy could see one of the European giants put in an exorbitant offer.
At the moment, he isn't worth a penny above what Milan paid for him, and the list of teams willing to give him a chance has undoubtedly dwindled down.
Now that Milan has turned into a club that has to sell in order to buy, don't be surprised if Balotelli is one potential sale if the right offer comes in next summer. What we've learned is that Adriano Galliani loves to buy low and sell high, so Balotelli's World Cup performance will be a deciding factor on where he plays next season.
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