Some may say they last saw Super Mario during Euro 2012, when he punished Germany with a top-notch brace to propel Italy into the final. Others claim his last act of heroism was a miraculous game-winning shot from over 30 yards out to scrape by Bologna in 2014. Either way, the verdict is out: Super Mario is missing, and has been for a while now.
It seems like it's been forever since Mario Balotelli stepped off the plane from Manchester and scored 26 goals in 43 appearances for Milan, filling Rossoneri faithful with dreams of a solidified attacking unit delivering multiple titles and silverware to San Siro. But after three managerial changes, a controversial transfer to Liverpool, and an even more arguable return to Milan (not to mention only scoring five goals in his last 44 appearances), it would seem as if those hopes and dreams are simply mere fantasies these days. He wants to don the Milan shirt into next season, even though recent reports seem to suggest Balotelli hasn't yet earned or proven himself to be a long-term option in the Rossoneri's attacking arsenal. With just six games left in this season, there is a case to be made in Mario Balotelli's favor.
Although last Sunday's dismal 2-1 loss against league-leading Juventus continued Milan's spiraling decline, it showcased Balotelli's first start since March 6th, and what could have very well been his most meaningful performance all year. No, there wasn't a goal to show for it, but there was a rare display of persistence and dedication that hasn't been seen in a while. Balotelli not only pressured the defense for most of the game, he played rather unselfishly, creating several chances and making himself available for his teammates. He collected the assist when his corner found the shining head of Alex for a go-ahead goal, and if Juventus had started any keeper other than Buffon, Balotelli's early free kick attempt surely would have gone in.
The point is that Balotelli played a key role in implementing a more attacking game plan for Milan versus Juventus, an issue that's plagued Milan all year. Since M'baye Niang's season came to an end in February, Carlos Bacca has proven to be Milan's most consistent and valued option up top. Luiz Adriano is slowly becoming the latest attacking bust for Milan, and Jérémy Menez has only been healthy enough to earn six appearances all season. That leaves Mario Balotelli as the next best option for newly appointed manager Cristian Brocchi, who should look to supply the Italian forward with meaningful minutes through the last six games of this Serie A campaign.
Milan are currently sitting in sixth on the table, with they're only hope of European qualification now being a Coppa Italia Final victory against Juventus on May 21. With that being said, Balotelli should be given the opportunity to show Milan and the world that he not only has what it takes to rediscover his 2013 Milan form, but also consistently contribute to whatever success Milan's future holds. It is yet another low risk, high reward situation should it work out. Milan will have figured out its attacking line while at the same time focus more transfer funds and attention towards bolstering their defense and midfield (a project that seems to have been lasting a while now).
In the event that none of this works out, then come the end May, Balotelli will be Liverpool's problem once more and will most likely be applying for a Chinese work visa. Why shouldn't Milan take that chance? We aren't talking about the Super Mario who gets in training bouts with managers or sets family members ablaze. If anything, the exclusion from the Italian national team and significant drought of minutes have shot his confidence and brought him back down to Earth. Milan are no longer investing in the "Why Always Me" Mario, but rather the one who's behavior was deemed a "10 out of 10 this year" by former manager Sinisa Mihajlovic. The story began with Milan needing Mario back in 2013, but it seems that now Mario needs Milan more than ever.