The Good, the bad and Balotelli

Posted by Sumeet Paul

Dario Azzaro/AFP/Getty ImagesAfter a rather poor November, Mario Balotelli has helped Milan earn wins in their last two matches.

It was undoubtedly a difficult month for Milan star Mario Balotelli in November, as his goal drought was coupled with controversy off the pitch that may have hinted that his time with the Rossoneri could come to an end sooner than many would have predicted.

- Report: No proof of Spolli racism to Balotelli

The 23-year-old was a shadow of himself as Milan struggled to emerge from their early season crisis, and combined with his inability to find the net from the penalty spot, there was a sense that little was going right for the Italian international.

In addition, he did little to ease the tension surrounding both the club and himself personally, as his "innocent" comments on Twitter were misconstrued and his commitment to the Rossoneri was called into question.

It is a side of his personality that has attracted significant criticism in the past, and ultimately led to doubts over his long-term future at the club. While Milan's financial restrictions have been well documented, they have shown on previous occasions that they are open to the possibility of selling high-value assets if it is required.

Nevertheless, there has been a change in Balotelli's attitude and performance in the last two games, and it is perhaps not a coincidence that it has resulted in two fundamental victories for Milan both in Europe and Serie A.

As noted previously, Balotelli appears to thrive when playing as the primary striker, as he is constantly involved in play and is a reference point for his team-mates. When deployed in a more withdrawn role, his attacking threat is slightly nullified, and with it goes his focus at times.

It appears as though his return to Italy hasn't quite gone according to plan in recent months either, as he pleaded in an open letter to an Italian television programme this week that he wished to "live like a normal person".

Granted, some of the aggravation is self-inflicted and his temperament and behaviour rightfully gets him into trouble. However, throughout his career the media has been obsessed with his life and he must learn to embrace that and use it to his advantage as opposed to it disrupting his life and affecting his focus on the pitch.

Perhaps the most striking aspect of his interview with Buone Notizie this week was his admission that he wanted "to be the team's leader again", and that ideally is where his current form will lead him to.

Following an interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport, former Fiorentina ace Gabriel Batistuta reportedly conceded that it "gets on my nerves" that the Milan striker doesn't take full advantage of his abilities.

In contrast, Brazilian legend Ronaldo described Balotelli as a "champion" this week, and insists that he can make the difference at the World Cup next summer provided that he behaves himself.

Throughout his career, that has consistently been the issue that has left many doubting Balotelli. Admittedly, that will probably mean little to the man himself but he appears to have recovered from his dip in form.

If he can learn to be as influential as possible and minimise his controversial behaviour, as he did during his first few months at San Siro, then he will undoubtedly be one of Milan's leaders for years to come and perhaps the media will begin to have a different view of him.

Do you agree with Batistuta and/or Ronaldo? Can Balotelli remain focused and help lead Milan into a new era of success?

For all the latest Milan and Serie A news, you can follow me on Twitter @italiafooty


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