Player Profile: Mario Balotelli

Mario Balotelli was widely hailed as a prodigy from when he first began playing for Inter Milan at age 17, and since then he has played for Manchester City, AC Milan, Liverpool, and now Nice. Say what you want about Balotelli, but that list of clubs shows that time and time again top clubs rated the Italian very highly.

Balotelli’s career statistics and exploits haven’t matched his talent and athletic ability yet, but he has been on a good run of form for over a year now with Nice in Ligue 1. This season the Italian has eight goals in 12 games.

Here is a look at Balotelli’s qualities and weaknesses:

Mario Balotelli is world-class technically.

Technically, Mario Balotelli is an amazing footballer, and without a doubt world-class. Whether you look at his individual dribbling ability or his ability to use both feet or his passing or his finishing or his ball-striking ability, the Italian’s technique is textbook. Not only is his technique textbook, but it’s also graceful and effortless. His ability is so impressive compared to his career statistics that it infuriates people who expected so much more by now. Nevertheless, Balotelli boasts a velvet soft first touch that makes him like Velcro with his ball control. The Italian is also able to easily executes advanced dribbling tricks that few professionals would even dare to attempt in matches. As a center forward, Balotelli is a clinical finisher with ice-cold nerves in front of goal. Despite being a striker, the Italian is an elite passer who can dissect any defense.

Mario Balotelli is a world-class athlete.

No one in world football can compete with Mario Balotelli physically in terms of speed and power. Kylian Mbappe is possibly slightly faster, but if he is, it’s not by much. The Italian is a human rubber band in terms of flexibility, and this has allowed him to pull off some very impressive controls, volleys, and half volleys. Balotelli is impossible to push off the ball or outmuscle, and this makes his shielding second to none. All of this athleticism would mean nothing without good technique and skill, but Balotelli has world-class technique as well.

Mario Balotelli plays big in big games.

Balotelli has a reputation as a big game player. His two goals in the semifinal against Germany in the 2012 Euro Cup come to mind. In that game, Balotelli destroyed Mats Hummels and Manuel Neuer on an unstoppable solo goal where he took Hummels of f the dribble and blasted an outside of the foot shot past the German goalkeeper. Balotelli also scored in Italy’s opening game of the 2014 World Cup in Manaus in extreme heat and humidity.  The Italian became an easy scapegoat for Italian fans and their football federation after failing to go deep into the tournament.

Mario Balotelli easily loses focus during games and starts walking around the field.

The one real flaw with Mario Balotelli’s play is that he easily loses focus during games when he begins complaining to the referees about missed calls. His playing ability and athleticism are so world-class that he should be instantly refocusing on the game after making a comment to a referee. Time and time again, the Italian striker will simply stop making runs and stop being involved in the game after getting annoyed with a referee. He must learn to refocus on the game and keep playing. This one thing has stopped him from being consistently world-class every season since his debut with Inter Milan at 17. Anyone who saw Balotelli fill in for the injured Zlatan Ibrahimovic that season can attest to the fact that Balotelli was an elite striker from almost his first Inter game. Balotelli must be active and direct for all 90 minutes instead of checking out of games and walking around the pitch doing nothing.

 

Neymar: A Football Grandmaster at 25

At 25 years old, Neymar is already a footballing grandmaster, and he’s not even at the height of his powers. Here is a look at several of the magisterial qualities of the Brazil and Paris Saint-Germain Number 10.

Neymar is the most technically-skilled player in world football.

Neymar’s dribbling, passing, and shooting are all world-class with both feet. Lionel Messi basically doesn’t use his right foot, and Cristiano Ronaldo’s dribbling and passing is nowhere near as good as Neymar’s. The Brazilian’s technique is perfect with his dribbling tricks, passing, and ball-striking techniques. Even more so than Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, the Paris Saint-Germain Number 10 displays more skill on the ball. It might be controversial to say that Neymar has better technical ability than Messi, but Neymar’s totally mastery of the ball with both feet gives him the edge over the Argentine, who is widely regarded as the best footballer of all time.

Neymar performs equally well for club and country.

Not all players play equally well for club and country, but Neymar does. This itself is impressive because it means Neymar isn’t dependent on certain players to perform. Neymar is a team player, and he thrives whether he is playing with club teammates or Brazilian teammates on the Seleção. The Brazil Number 10 already has a track record of performing well in the World Cup, in the Champions League, and two top European club leagues.

Neymar is a showman who plays with magic.

Like Ronaldinho and Ronaldo before him, Neymar is a Brazilian attacker who plays with magic and is worth the price of admission. Neymar is a player who is always deserving of watching. No matter who the Brazilian is playing against, Neymar is a joy to watch. When you watch Neymar, you are guaranteed magically dribbling, passing, and attacking play. Plus, the Brazilian is always highly-likely to score.

Neymar has world-class statistics

In both goals and assists, Neymar puts up huge numbers. Recently, Neymar was the top assist provider in all of Europe. For all the talk of Neymar’s dribbling and individual play, Neymar is a world-class passer and assist provider. If you play with Neymar, he will pass you the ball and set you up to score. Neymar’s scoring is well-known and well-documented. The Brazilian basically scores a goal per game, and the goals come in the big games as well.

Despite popular opinion, Neymar takes a beating from defenders and is tough.

Neymar has long been portrayed as a diver who fakes contact and rolls around on the ground. The reality is much different. Neymar knows how to avoid horror tackles and hackers by lifting up his knees and throwing his legs up to avoid awkward twists to his ankles and knees. Anyone who watches Neymar play sees the constant body checks, kicks to the shins, and stepping on the toes that he endures. Neymar would be stupid to not avoid these fouls and just let himself get injured.