Mario Balotelli is back in the Italian national team for the first time since 2018. Balotelli started his professional football career at Lumezzane and played for the first team twice before having an unsuccessful trial at Barcelona, and subsequently joining Inter Milan in 2007.
There is also the fact that the 31-year-old has found some form – and stability – playing under Vincenzo Montella in Turkey.
After a disastrous return to his native Brescia and a short stint at Serie B side Monza, Balotelli’s career at the highest level appeared to be over.
Mancini has long served as something of a footballing father figure to the forward, but even he admitted to the Gazzetta dello Sport in 2019, “I love him but I can’t do anything for him anymore.”
His brother Enock Barwuah pointed out in an interview with Notizie.com, “We are not a side like France, who have the likes of Karim Benzema, Kylian Mbappe and Olivier Giroud.
“With all due respect for Italy, we don’t have that kind of a selection in attack. This is why someone like Balotelli cannot be ignored, even just as part of the squad.”
Does he deserve this shot at redemption? Some would argue not. After all, he is hardly the top scorer in Turkey. That is Aleksandar Pesic.
No, Balotelli sits joint-seventh, with eight goals. That’s one fewer than former Chelsea forward Michy Batshuayi, and as many as Mame Biram Diouf, once of Manchester United. What’s more, his shot conversion rate (11.1 per cent) is worse than any other player among the Super Lig’s top 20 scorers.
And even Barwuah admits that his brother has only ever really played at “30% of his potential”.
“Look, he will never do what Immobile and Andrea Belotti do,” he acknowledged. “He is not one who works that hard for the team, but he has other characteristics and can create a goal out of nowhere.
“For a team that is struggling to score goals, he’d be ideal.”