No more Mr. Nice guy? Balotelli's latest red card puts future in doubt
We all laughed when Football Leaks revealed that Mario Balotelli’s Liverpool contract contained a clause offering him a million-pound bonus if he was not sent off three times in one season. It seemed crazy at the time, but it turns out it made sense. Balotelli, now at Nice, was sent off for the third time this season (although one was later rescinded) after insulting referee Tony Chapron in English. Nice went on to win the game against Lorient, 1-0, but Balotelli seems to have run out of chances on the south coast. After scoring eight goals in his first eight games, he now has more red cards than goals in his last six. And with striker Alassane Plea currently out injured, Balotelli has now blown his chance.
His latest red card came a few days after teammate Valentin Eysseric questioned his attitude, telling BeIn Sports: “It’s a shame he lets his head drop, you see him in training every day. He's such a great player. I think he looks like he wants nothing to do with us. It's really disappointing… We know the coach demands enormous effort from his squad. He won't accept anyone taking their foot off the gas.” For what it's worth, another teammate, Dante, claimed those his words were misinterpreted.
Nice remains in third place and on course for a Champions League spot, but it seems increasingly unlikely it will have Balotelli on its roster next season. At only 26, the Italian forward should be at his peak now. He is not, and it looks like another move to an even lesser league could be next in the cards.
Elsewhere in Ligue 1, there was good news for football hipsters this weekend, as Lille confirmed that Marcelo Bielsa would take charge of the club in July. Lille’s new owner Gerard Lopez came into the club with all sorts of promises, and this is the first that has come off, except the lessons of Lazio need to be heeded. Last summer, Lazio announced that Bielsa had agreed to be its new coach, but two days later, after claiming promises were not met, he walked away.
With four months until July, there’s still time for Bielsa to change his mind. But it would be fun for all involved if he didn’t.