Mario Balotelli has finally agreed terms to join Marseille on a six-month loan deal from rivals OGC Nice, after talks had broken down over a proposed move last summer.
The 28-year-old, who scored 26 goals across all competitions for Nice last season, has only created one assist in 10 Ligue 1 matches this term.
He’s struggled for consistent goalscoring form as a mixture of yellow card suspensions and spells out of the matchday squad altogether have halted his progress. His last competitive appearance was during Nice’s goalless draw against Angers on December 4 – they’ve played six games, including their French Cup quarter-final defeat by Guingamp on penalties, since that date.
Mario’s pursuit for new challenge finally sealed
This news shouldn’t be so surprising to most neutrals, as Balotelli made clear his intentions to leave Les Aiglons even before this campaign began. At the time, manager Patrick Vieira said he’d be open to helping Mario resolve his future.
Back in August, he was quoted as saying:
“It’s going to be very complicated, very difficult, as the player wants to leave. What’s important, for me and the club, is to keep players who want to help the club improve – and from the moment Mario has decided he wants to leave, the club has to do what’s necessary to let him.”
The reason behind his recent absence is said to have been because of a dispute with Vieira, which is typical for a player of Balotelli’s bullish character.
During his press conference, he was asked about his struggles in-front of goal and said: “When this happens, the striker is responsible for the situation but sometimes there are external factors. I was supposed to leave at the beginning of the season, then I didn’t leave… but will make up for it.”
Marseille move could prove masterful
His desire for a new challenge was met with intrigue and speculation continued to rumble about which calibre of team would be prepared to take a chance on Balotelli – an unpredictable yet quality player with world-class potential, that has been unable to fulfil that same promise.
In a team that contains Kevin Strootman, Luiz Gustavo, Morgan Sanson, Dimitri Payet and Florian Thauvin, Balotelli will be tasked with helping them achieve a top-four finish this term under Rudi Garcia.
They are currently six points behind third-placed Lyon with a game in hand over them and six in seventh. Level on points with parent club Nice below them, L’OM’s inconsistency to start the season hasn’t proven too costly yet.
Marseille host high-flying Lille on Friday night, in what promises to be an intriguing watch. Lille sit second in Ligue 1 with 40 points after 21 games.
Balotelli could be part of Garcia’s first-team plans for this weekend’s fixture, though the Frenchman has already stressed he will not start. Although he has no existing injuries, he hasn’t trained properly in over a month and is expected to be eased into the action as weeks progress.
“He hasn’t played or trained for a month, it is impossible to see him start on Friday,” Garcia told reporters. “We will have to wait to see how long it takes him to be at 100%.”