He has been outscored in Turkey this season by Premier League flops Michy Batshuayi and Andreas Cornelius and was once told he ‘deserves a slap’ by the man who captains the Italy team, Giorgio Chiellini.
And yet here we are. A promising, but not spectacular, upturn in form combined with an injury to another key player and a World Cup place to fight for has seen coach Roberto Mancini hand Mario Balotelli his first Italy call-up since 2018.
Now 31, this represents at the very least an opening for a possible shot at redemption for Balotelli. Italy don’t actually have any games to play this month but Mancini is holding a training camp in Coverciano to prepare for the World Cup play-offs in March.
Italy might be the Euro 2020 holders but there is a serious prospect that they will fail to qualify for the World Cup in Qatar later this year. They are strong favourites to defeat North Macedonia in their first World Cup play-off but will then face Portugal – who will likely beat Turkey – for a place in the tournament.
And to make matters worse for Italy and Mancini, their best striker in Federico Chiesa is out for at least seven months with a torn ACL – he had surgery on Monday. Enter Balotelli.
Mario Balotelli’s form for Turkish side Adana Demirspor has earned him an Italy recall
Balotelli has eight goals in 19 appearances so far for the side fourth in the Turkish league
Italy boss Roberto Mancini has handed Balotelli his international lifeline – the ex-Man City boss famously had a training ground bust-up with him but has largely spoken fondly of the striker
Plying his trade for Adana Demirspor, who are fourth in the Turkish SuperLig, Balotelli has scored eight goals in 19 appearances so far and provided five assists. He is managed by Vincenzo Montella – a former team-mate of Italy boss Mancini when the duo were at Sampdoria in the late 90s.
Yet while Balotelli is now showing signs of consistency, life in Turkey didn’t get off to a solid start. In his third game – where he was still without a goal for his new team – he was substituted in the 56th minute and reacted furiously, even appearing to punch a team-mate on the bench when venting in fury.
But that incident prompted a twist of fate that helped Balotelli on his path back to the international fold. His then manager, Samet Aybaba, was sacked three days later and in came Montella.
Aybaba sent a parting shot at Balotelli, saying: ‘If Balotelli plays, he’s a problem. If he doesn’t play, he’s the same problem.’
But Balotelli appears to have made a powerful friend in Turkey in his club president Murat Sancak.
‘We are like brothers,’ Sancak said of the Italian. ‘He loves me very much. He doesn’t go anywhere without my say-so.’
Life didn’t start smoothly in Turkey for Balotelli – he was furious at being substituted in the 56th minute of his third game for Demirspor, when he was still searching for his first goal
Balotelli even appeared to punch a team-mate amid…