Connect in the back of the net

David Luiz

One part of the infamous Nemanja Matic merry-go-round, Luiz joined Chelsea from Benfica for around €25 million in January 2011.

It’s fair to say the reputation he would garner throughout his career was evident when he made his first start.

Although it was a 0-0 draw against Fulham, an underwhelming result in itself, Luiz was awarded Man of the Match despite giving away a penalty in the 93rd minute.


Cult hero at Chelsea

His cult hero status was cemented further with his 1st goal for the Blues aiding Chelsea to come from behind against Manchester United.

In the same month, he bagged his second Chelsea goal against the other half of Manchester in a 2-0 win.

Again, the Brazilian won Man of the Match, and this time was also awarded with Player of the Month for March.

After such a strong start, Luiz was very highly thought of after his first season.

Following this up, it was next year he was to form part of the famous Chelsea side that produced one of the most unlikely Champions League victories in recent history.



Despite these accolades, Luiz remained a divisive figure during his time in England.

Debates over his position was just the start, his on and off field ‘antics’ was what got people really talking. Most well-remembered of these has to be an incident that occurred at Old Trafford in 2013.

Having elbowed United defender Rafael, he was kicked and subsequently flung himself to the ground.

That infamous (or famous) smirk.

That infamous (or famous) smirk.

After his foe faced his marching orders, the Chelsea defender was seen smirking to himself on the ground. It was exactly this kind of personality that so many Chelsea fans adored about Luiz, and understandably so.


Down-to-earth, but flamboyant

By all accounts he is a down-to-earth, genuine, and funny personality, which he demonstrates in vast quantities on the pitch.

This flamboyant attitude unfortunately acted as a detriment, with Luiz seemingly not content restricting himself to the Centre Back role he was supposedly playing.

He would frequently raid forward, abandoning his defensive partners drawing the ire of the Stamford Bridge faithful.


England return

After a few years in Paris, moving to PSG for an eye-watering £50 million, Luiz is back in England.

In a last minute deal that seemed to be out of necessity rather than a deep desire from Antonio Conte, the Brazilian was welcomed back with open arms, but perhaps more for his personality that playing ability.

The new boss in the dugout has a reputation for his defensive coaching, as well as his brutal honesty and strict management, so the idea of Luiz fitting into this system still doesn’t convince me personally.

Time will tell if the Brazilian has matured on the pitch but, as a neutral, I hope taming his positional play does not dampen his off-field hilarity.


Mario Balotelli

To say Balotelli has had a career of ‘ups and downs’ would be to put it mildly.

Rejected by Barcelona in 2007 after two unsuccessful trials, the Italian forward was signed by Inter.

Not a bad second option considering they went on to win the Champions League under Jose Mourinho.

Following his suspension from the Inter Milan first team after ‘disciplinary problems’, most likely due to the strained relationship that developed between Balotelli and the Portuguese boss, he moved to Manchester City in 2010 to team up with Mancini once again.

And so began one of the most memorable players to step foot onto Premier League soil.

As the saying goes, the Italian started as he meant to go on, with his first three months in England providing the perfect summary of his career on these isles:


The injuries

The lesser commented side of Balotelli, but he does frequently suffer muscular trouble.

This was apparent when he made his debut in which he scored but injured his right knee, keeping him out of action for a month.


The inconsistency

Both his Premier League debut and first Premier League starts came in underwhelming, and frankly disappointing defeats, to both Arsenal and Wolves. Balotelli failed to really make an impact in either match.


The promise

His first and second Premier League goals both came in the same game against West Brom, where the Italian finally demonstrated why Manchester City paid €25 million for his talents.


The ill-discipline

Bags of talent, but lack of it in discipline.

Bags of talent, but lack of it in discipline.

In the very same game Mario bagged those two goals, he received a red card for violent conduct.


The arrogance

In December of the same year, Balotelli was awarded with the prestigious ‘Golden Boy Award’, bestowed annually upon football’s hottest young prospect.

Upon receiving the award, Super Mario claimed to be superior to all past winners, whom just happened to include a certain Lionel Messi, as well as dismiss the runner-up, Jack Wilshere, whom he claimed to have never heard of.


Plenty of moments

There are a number of stand-out moments from Balotelli’s Premier League career, and undoubtedly my favourite is the one depicted above.

‘Why Always Me?’ asks Balotelli’s undershirt, after he coolly slotted home, as City went on to dismantle their neighbours.

Seemingly the fact that people might criticise him for the fact that he set off fireworks in his bathroom, the night before their biggest match of the season, escaped him.

He won Man of the Match in the 2011 FA Cup final, he set-up THAT Sergio Aguero goal to win City the League, and he never, ever, missed a penalty (at least in England).

But it is Balotelli’s personality, the very thing that sets him apart on the pitch, that has caused the downfall of his career off it.


Real tragedy

The real tragedy of Mario Balotelli is that his talent is evident and abundant, but his lack of application and apparent care for his own career, has resulted in one of the worst cases of self-sabotage in the past few years.

Released by Liverpool, where the bad side of Balotelli far overshadowed the good, the Italian now finds himself at Nice.

The club that recently re-started the career of Hatem Ben-Arfa is now home to yet another precocious talent.

Let’s hope for the same result, as this looks to be the Italian’s last chance.


Written by Adam Pritchard

Follow Adam on Twitter @DukeArsenal

Check out his fantastic football blog, Starting At Ten

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