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Just 46 days into his career with the Rossoneri and the effect that Mario Balotelli has had on the club is clear.
Following his arrival in Italy, AC Milan vice-president Adriano Galliani said that the move for Balotelli was “a dream that has been realized [and] a transfer that everyone wanted; the club, the president and the fans.”
That dream got off to a fairytale start with Balotelli producing a match winning brace against Udinese, a win which lifted Milan above rivals Inter in the table at the time.
Balotelli scored in the next two games for AC Milan, including a stunning 30-yard free kick against Parma to maintain the Rossoneri’s resurgent push up the league. That strike at the San Siro proved enough to match Oliver Bierhoff’s record of four goals in three matches, but the Italy international has since kicked on.
Balotelli came off the bench to add to his tally with another goal against Genoa in only his fifth appearance for the club, whilst last weekend’s brace against Palermo took the controversial striker’s tally to seven goals in six games in Serie A.
Balotelli’s arrival has coincided with AC Milan’s unbeaten run in the league, which has seen five wins in just seven games, but the effect of ‘Super Mario’ has not been universally positive.
After hitting 15 goals prior to Balotelli’s arrival in January, Italian striker Stephan El Shaarawy has managed just one goal in the league since the controversial striker’s move from Manchester City.
The ‘Pharaoh’ has lost his place at the pinnacle of the Rossoneri attack, with both Balotelli and Gianpaolo Pazzini now favoured ahead of El Shaarawy in the centre of the AC Milan attack.
The competition for places up front is something which Massimiliano Allegri will have to manage carefully, but Il Faraone will likely find himself more frequently positioned either side of a central striker, with the striker’s work rate and energy considerably higher than that of the enigmatic Balotelli.
With Mario Balotelli in the side, the Rossoneri have yet to look back and AC Milan’s hopes of a second place finish seem possible based on their form in 2013. Fixtures against Fiorentina, Napoli and Juventus next month make April a huge time of the year for the Rossoneri.
How Milan manage Balotelli over the next four years could prove crucial, especially given the striker’s unmanageability in the past, but should Balotelli mature in his ways and add a higher level of work rate and determination to his game, then the effect of Mario may be long felt at the San Siro.
Jonathan Day is a leading football analyst who specialises in European and Premier League football. Jonathan currently writes for Sportingly Better, a football betting blog that offers free football tips and betting predictions. Follow Sportingly Better on Twitter or add them on Facebook for all the latest betting tips.
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