For the second time in his career, Mario Balotelli has left Milan for north-west England after his "long-term" move to Liverpool FC was confirmed.
One of the most charismatic strikers in world football, Palermo-born Balotelli has seldom been out of the headlines since joining FC Internazionale Milano aged 16 in summer 2007 from AC Lumezzane. While there he won three Serie A titles, culminating in the treble of 2009/10, before departing for Manchester City FC and an FA Cup and Premier League championship in consecutive seasons.
Transferred to AC Milan in January 2012, not long before his starring role in Italy's run to the UEFA EURO 2012 final, he managed 30 goals in 54 Rossoneri appearances and now is back in the UEFA Champions League with Liverpool, with a potential debut against City on Monday.
In his short career, Balotelli has played under some of the game's most celebrated coaches. UEFA.com looks at what they had to say about a player for whom obscurity is something that happens to other people.
Roberto Mancini (coached Balotelli at Inter 2007–08, Manchester City 2010–12)
Mario was an important player for us [at City]. With Mario we won the Premier League and the FA Cup in two years ... but [it was] important for Mario to go back to Italy. Mario was like another one of my children. You can be upset with him sometimes, but afterwards he's a lovely lad.
José Mourinho (Inter, 2008–10)
It was great fun, I always thought that was great fun and I have good memories of that. Obviously with a kid like him – maybe now he is a bit different – at that time you have your ups and downs and we had our ups and downs. But at the end of the day I enjoyed it, I think he enjoyed it too. He learned a few things – or not! – but he enjoyed it too and he was a Champions League winner at 19.
Cesare Prandelli (Italy, 2010–14)
Balotelli is not a great player, he is only a player who has the chances to become one. I told Mario that if he wants to become the type of player he thinks he is, then he needs to come back to reality. If he came back down to earth then he could actually be a great player and not just a player who has the ability to be one. He is a good guy really but he lives in a dimension that is far away from reality. That doesn't say anything, though. He is only 24 and has the possibility to build on this experience.
Massimiliano Allegri (Milan, 2012–14)
I think Balotelli gives his very best when he plays alone in attack and does not need to go back into midfield to receive the ball, wasting energy. He is one of the best footballers in the world in this role – he only needs to learn to play more for the team. Potentially he is a world-class player but he needs to improve some aspects of his game and needs to do it quickly because he is not a child any more.
Clarence Seedorf (Milan, 2014)
Everybody can have a match where nothing seems to go well – I don't think Mario needs to improve as a player but he must be more consistent. He is extremely talented and I hope one day he finally manages to show his great potential and become a great player because today he is not yet at that point. He has had ups and downs, tears and laughs, but it's normal. He is a human being like the rest of us.
Filippo Inzaghi (Milan, 2014)
I had difficult periods during my playing career but heavy criticism helped me become stronger as a man and as a player. I hope it will happen the same with Mario after his difficult World Cup. He is a great player who could make the difference in any team. I talked to him and he was fully motivated, he even asked for a fitness coach for his holidays – it shows how much he cares. I [wanted to] try to put him in the condition to play at his very best, then it will be up to him. I [wanted to] start from zero with him, cancelling the good and bad things he has done in the past.
Brendan Rodgers (Liverpool, 2014–)
Balotelli is a big talent. I saw that in this time at Inter Milan as a young player and obviously going to Manchester City when we had a real close eye on him. He's got all the qualities. He's 6ft 3ins (191cm), he's quick, his touch is terrific and he can score goals. He went back to Italy to play and he's still so young. If his focus is right, his concentration is right and he leads the lifestyle of a top player then he can play for any team in the world.
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