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Mario Balotelli Still Needs Time to Show He Has Improved

The 25-year-old striker has made a statement so far with Milan, but his history—particularly last season at Liverpool—suggests Milan fans should take these early performances with a grain of salt.

Mario Balotelli has impressed in his first three matches back with Milan.
Mario Balotelli has impressed in his first three matches back with Milan.
Dino Panato/Getty Images

One year ago, Mario Balotelli was wearing a Liverpool jersey. It was supposedly his "last chance" at a major club. Before Balotelli scored for Liverpool, he played in a couple of matches with some success. He was playing with confidence and looked comfortable on the ball. He was playing similar to how he played in last week's Derby Della Madonnina, showing plenty of promise. Balotelli scored his first goal for Liverpool when the Reds were struggling against Bulgarian side Ludogerats during the Champions League.

The ball was crossed in, and Balotelli took it down with a decent touch before he scored with a toe-poke. This is incomparable to his first goal in his return to Milan—his exquisite free kick against Udinese Tuesday night—but it was still his first goal of the season. In that Liverpool game, the commentators and many sport writers were not only amazed by Balotelli's first goal, but his mature behavior, as well. Balotelli was provoked many times by the Ludogerats defenders. He kept his cool and drew many fouls.

The same thing happened Tuesday night. Balotelli drew several fouls - and even a couple yellow cards - against Udinese.

After the Champions League match last year, many Liverpool fans were excited about the addition of Balotelli. They actually believed he would impact the rest of their season. Unfortunately, his next goal and relatively strong performance came five months later against Tottenham.

History does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme.

When it comes to Balotelli, the parallels between the beginnings of this season and last are hard to ignore. Balotelli's first few performances for Milan have been great, but believing Balotelli will positively affect Milan's campaign is premature. Liverpool fans learned this the hard way.

Do not forget what has caused Balotelli's journey from club to club. His unpredictability off the field and his inconsistency on it always makes him a risky bet. If Balotelli is playing the way he has started 10 games down the road, he may be considered back. Balotelli has shown a few good performances at the beginning of the season do not automatically translate into a stellar season. He will have to show this start is not a fluke.