Predicting the future of Mario Balotelli

Posted by Sumeet Paul

Dino Panato/Getty ImagesMario Balotelli has shed his 'bad boy' label since leaving the Premier League, much to the betterment of both Milan and the Azzurri.

"His first thought is always that of the team and this is the attitude of a champion. He has great potential and can become one of the best five players in the world. He just needs to find some consistency."

That was the post-match analysis provided by Italy coach Cesare Prandelli, as Mario Balotelli helped the Azzurri to a 2-2 draw against Brazil on Thursday. From being a tabloid joke and bench-warmer in Manchester, in less than three months Mario is looking pretty 'Super' again.

- El Shaarawy backs Balotelli for greatness

At the forefront of projects at both club level and for his country, there are great expectations on the shoulders of the 22-year-old. Speculation of off-field antics soured his stay in England, but the Premier League's loss has most certainly been both Milan's and Italy's gain.

Shedding the 'bad boy' image he was tagged with, Balotelli has evolved both in his ability and temperament. He has responded to the added responsibility handed to him by both Prandelli and Massimiliano Allegri, and is showing signs of being able to be that player so many had predicted he would be.

Despite the unwavering support he received at Manchester City through Roberto Mancini, Balotelli is now settled in Milan. Playing in the famous red and black with the club he supported as a child has predictably brought the best out of him, and his rapport with Prandelli has seen him flourish on the international stage.

Some still mistake his confidence as arrogance, similar to a previous Rossonero. Zlatan Ibrahimovic was often mocked for his eccentric statements about being the best player in the world. Yet if you don't believe in your own abilities and have a desire to be the best, then why should anyone else?

Balotelli knows he can be a special player, having now found 'home' he has the chance, perhaps the best chance he will get in his career, of becoming a star and a reference point for both club and country for many years. He has matured and has great humility, giving himself a six out of 10 for his performance against Brazil because he "missed too many scoring opportunities".

There will undoubtedly still be apprehension as many anticipate his temper getting the better of him, and there will probably be setbacks along the way. Yet Balotelli has already proven plenty of critics wrong and the hope will be that he can maintain his current form, and as Prandelli put it, find consistency.

Seven goals in six games for Milan since his move to San Siro suggests he is on the right track, but there is a long way to go for the Rossoneri to achieve their ambition of securing Champions League football for next season.

By moving back to Italy, and specifically with Milan, Prandelli admitted that it was a great personal choice by the player. The switch home has allowed the former Inter striker the chance to play alongside the likes of Riccardo Montolivo and Stephan El Shaarawy, allowing them to build a chemistry they can take with them moving forward with the national side.

Things can change very quickly in football, but it is clear that the future can be as good as Balotelli wants it to be. He has the ability, now it is purely up to him whether or not he will become the champion that Prandelli and many others have always believed he can be.

Where do you rate Balotelli amongst today's top players? Do you agree with Prandelli, can he become one of the top five players in the world?

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