Mario Balotelli hopes to kick-start his season and revive Marseille’s flagging league campaign.
The much-traveled striker joined Marseille on Wednesday from French rival Nice until the end of the season, the latest stage in a topsy-turvy career he reignited in France following a miserable spell in England with Liverpool.
Now Balotelli has the task of sparking a Marseille attack which has been carried by winger Florian Thauvin this season.
Marseille is in seventh place and needs to finish third to enter the qualifying rounds for next season’s Champions League. Although Balotelli has not played for Nice since Dec. 4, he could be put straight into the team for Friday’s home game against second-place Lille.
“Physically I feel very good,” Balotelli said at a news conference. “I’ve trained a lot on my own to be in form.”
The 28-year-old Italian was the top scorer for Nice over the past two seasons but failed to score in 10 league games this season and fell out of favor with coach Patrick Vieira.
Marseille did not give financial details of the deal. The southern French club had made Balotelli a priority signing during the off-season transfer window but the move fell through.
“Finally, it’s happened. I’m here and I can start playing,” Balotelli said. “It was difficult for me at the start of the season because I really thought I was going to leave (Nice).”
Marseille strikers Valere Germain and Kostas Mitroglou have struggled to score goals this season, meaning Thauvin has often had to play as an emergency striker and has netted 11 league goals — five more than Germain and Mitroglou combined.
Balotelli jokingly said that coach Rudi Garcia wants him to play in defense “at center half,” but then pledged to help Marseille climb up the table.
“Seriously, I’m here to score goals and help others to score,” said Balotelli, who has a respectable tally of 14 goals in 36 games for Italy.
Second place guarantees automatic qualification for the Champions League. Marseille is nine points behind Lille, having played one game less.
Marseille is the sixth club of Balotelli’s career, having also played for both Milan sides and Manchester City.
He was highly popular with Nice fans and scored 43 goals in 76 games overall.