Blog Written by Joshua O'Byrne (@JobJobBinks)
After months of speculation Mario Balotelli finally left Liverpool on transfer deadline day and signed the dotted line to join Nice. A step down from the likes of A.C. Milan, Liverpool and Man City but let's be honest Nice were arguably the most prestigious club willing to take a chance on Super Mario. There are many people, like Jamie Carragher, who feel that Balotelli has nothing left to offer and is a waste of space. However I believe a move down to the Cote d'Azur could be a great move for Balotelli and the best place for him to finally fulfill his potential.
Nice in my opinion was a smart move by Balotelli. A move back to Italy would have brought too much media pressure had Mario joined Chievo Verona or Palermo; he would have never been left alone. Apart from Nice only Ajax, Sion, Besiktas and Wolves had an interest in Balotelli. While that shows how much his standing has fallen, I think Nice was the right move for him to make. In Lucian Favre, Nice have a fantastic manager who revived Borussia Monchengladbach and turned them from relegation contenders into a Champions League club. Favre is a top quality manager and having got the best out of players, like Raffael and Marco Reus, one wonders if he can do the same with Balotelli.
There is no doubt that Nice took a risk in signing Balotelli but this isn't the first time Nice have took a gamble on a player. Hatem Ben Arfa joined Nice last season in a similar situation as the Italian striker. Like Balotelli, Ben Arfa had always been known as a "Trouble maker", however at Nice he flourished scoring 17 goals and providing 6 assists earning him a dream move to PSG. Nice will be hoping that Balotelli will finally live up to all his hype just as Ben Arfa did last season.
With all the due respect the quality of the French Ligue 1, it is also something that will help Mario to succeed at Nice. There is no doubt that it's a step down from Serie A and the Premier League. Ibrahimovic for example scored goals for fun in Ligue 1 for past four seasons albeit with a stronger team then Nice. However, if Balotelli finally does live up to his potential of someone with similar quality to Ibra, Mario should be able to score goals for fun. Balotelli's notorious agent Mino Raiola has already said that he expects Mario to score at least 20 goals this season with the French club. Nice and Lucien Favre will hope he that he is proven right.
Another key factor to why Balotelli can succeed at Nice is his maturity. Balotelli seems to have matured over the past two years. Behavior is not really an issue with him any longer, as he doesn't make any more headlines off the pitch. Balotelli has become quieter and less keen to show off in the public eye. It's understandable to see why this has happened; he’s now a father with a complicated relationship with the mother making things hard on him. His adoptive father passed away last year. Balotelli is just like everyone else and events like these in anyone's life force people to think about their life and what's really important. Mario has matured a lot since these events and I believe he is ready to step up on the pitch at last and show us the real Balotelli.
Nice is the best place for Mario Balotelli to finally become the player he was meant to be. It has been reported that Balotelli recently purchased gifts for all his new teammates at Nice. I'm sure however most of his teammates and certainly Favre will be hoping that Balotelli will be delivering presents on the pitch as well this year for Nice.