As a known target for Arsenal, the decision to post the picture to Instagram has been interpreted as "a massive hint he is desperate to sign" for Arsene Wenger's team by Colin Harvey of the Daily Star.
Mario Balotelli and his girlfriend shopping at Arsenal pic.twitter.com/pciRpudhZO— Football WAGs (@Footy_WAGs) July 18, 2014
Puma sponsor Balotelli and also manufacture Arsenal's kit. Earlier this year, writing in Metro, Jamie Sanderson suggested that the Gunners' deal with sportswear company would help fund a move for the controversial Italian striker:
Arsenal's brand new kit sponsors will reportedly help the club fund a big money deal to sign Mario Balotelli at the end of the season. But amid talk that his giant price has put Arsene Wenger off making a bid, Puma are believed to have stepped in to offer an alternative.
Now two and two don't necessarily add up to four here, but for argument's sake, let's say the striker does want to join Arsenal. And then ask: Is it a good match?
His CV suggests it is.
The statistics say so, too.
Last season, in a relatively poor AC Milan team, the Italian scored 14 goals in 30 games and provided six assists for his teammates, per Whoscored.com.
But Mario Balotelli is much more than the sum of those two parts.
As talented as he is, the forward has a tendency to go missing in games. In April, he put in a awful performance against Roma and, after being substituted in the 2-0 defeat, lost his temper during a television interview, as reported by the BBC:
Balotelli, speaking to Sky Italia, criticised pundits Zvonimir Boban and Giancarlo Marocchi. "You don't understand anything about football," Balotelli snapped at ex-Juventus title winner Marocchi. "You always talk and talk, but there's no point to saying any of these things. No point at all."
Off the pitch, there is more baggage.
Forget the fireworks in the bathroom, taking his £200,000 Ferrari for a spin on a go-kart track, driving into a women's prison and so on... the most concerning for Arsenal fans would be his bust-up with manager Roberto Mancini while at City.
Does Wenger really need a player who would give him such headaches?
Jose Mourinho is regarded as one the best managers in the game, but in an interview with CNN, as reported by Football Italia, he spoke of the challenges of dealing with Balotelli at Inter.
Mario got a yellow card in the 42nd minute, so when I got to the dressing room at half-time I spend about 14 minutes of the 15 available speaking only to Mario. I said to him: ‘Mario, I cannot change you, I have no strikers on the bench, so don’t touch anybody and play only with the ball. If we lose the ball no reaction. If someone provokes you, no reaction, if the referee makes a mistake, no reaction.' The 46th minute – red card!
His recent performances at the World Cup for Italy suggest he still has much to learn about consistency on the pitch. In the first game of the tournament against England, Balotelli scored the winner, but by the final must-win match against Uruguay, he was missing in action and was substituted at half-time.
And while Balotelli can suggest that all the bizarre headlines he receives are unwarranted, he hardly helps himself here either.
In December 2013, the AC Milan striker took to the pitch against Roma with a pair of boots decorated with newspaper cuttings about himself, per Liam Prenderville of the Daily Mirror.
Reason No. 1,387 why Mario Balotelli is the man. His boots are made from newspaper stories about him. Awesome. pic.twitter.com/aNtsxhuyW3”— Frank Isola (@FisolaNYDN) December 17, 2013
This is hardly behaviour befitting of a potential disciple of Wenger—a man who looks to his players to remain professional on and off the pitch.
And while Arsenal embarked on their summer transfer spree searching for striker to support Olivier Giroud, they now have one.
The Gunners signed the versatile Alexis Sanchez from Barcelona for £35 million earlier this month and no longer need to take a risk on a player who has undoubted talent but erratic behaviour and form to go with it.
Balotelli is not the right fit for Arsenal. Talented as the Italian is, he still has much to learn.