AC Milan are a sinking ship, and with the untested Clarence Seedorf at the helm, no one knows if the Rossoneri will make it out in one piece. With their chances of finishing in the top three of Italy’s Serie A fading with each disappointing result, it may be time for Mario Balotelli to leave the club he has supported since he was a child.
Sitting in 11th place is unfamiliar territory for a Milan side that is full of internationals, and the club hasn’t finished outside of the top three since the 2007-08 season. Already a whopping 30 points behind league leaders and hated rivals Juventus, Milan needs to discover their form, and fast. With only the top three teams from Italy qualifying for the Champions League, Milan somehow have to make up 20 points on third place Napoli, something that is highly unlikely considering Rafael Benitez’s side have only lost three games all season.
Despite a near impossible task, it’s not all doom and gloom at the San Siro, as Milan did qualify for this year’s Round of 16 in the Champions League, finishing second in their group behind FC Barcelona. But with a match-up against an Atletico Madrid side that is enjoying their best season in recent memory, Milan’s hopes of making the quarter finals fall on Balotelli’s broad shoulders.
Balotelli, 23, is the undoubted star of Milan and the Italian national team these days, and joined the club a year ago when recently fired coach Massimiliano Allegri bought the troublesome forward for $20 million from Manchester City. It proved to be a great piece of business as Balotelli scored 12 goals in 13 games, allowing Milan to grab third place and qualify for the Champions League. Even with Super Mario’s seven goals this season, Milan only have 22 points from 19 Serie A matches, leading many to believe that Milan and Balotelli will not be returning to Europe’s biggest stage next year.
In truth, Milan have been in decline ever since owner and former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi sold Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva to French side Paris Saint-Germain. To make things worse for Milan fans, the Parisians subsequently won the Ligue 1 title and were only knocked out of last season’s Champions League on away goals in the quarter finals. Berlusconi’s response to the enraged Milan faithful was that the club were going to turn their attention toward youth development, and that the sales of world class players like Ibrahimovic and Silva saved the club upwards of $160 million.
Although the arrival of Balotelli did help Milan fans relax, it would be a crying shame for one of the world’s most promising forwards to miss next seasons Champions League. Despite Balotelli recently pledging to stay at Milan, it is in his best interest to join a new club after the 2014 World Cup, as a player of his quality should be fighting on all fronts to win trophies, not struggling to qualify for them.
A good destination for Balotelli could be back in the EPL with Chelsea FC, whose forwards have struggled for goals all season. Considering Jose Mourinho coached Balotelli during the pairs time with Inter Milan, he may consider taking another crack at a player he once called “uncoachable.” If Balotelli has a strong showing for Italy at this summer’s World Cup in Brazil, Milan may have to say goodbye to one of the game’s most interesting characters.