A frequent target of racist abuse and often surrounded in controversy, Mario Balotelli’s nomadic career has taken another radical turn.
The former Italy striker was reportedly fired by his hometown club for failing to report to training as the Italian soccer league prepares to resume from a three-month break amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Local media reported over the weekend that Brescia owner Massimo Cellino had his legal team deliver a dismissal letter to Balotelli to terminate the player’s multi-year contract “for just cause.”
“I thought as the captain of his home city’s team he would have done more,” Brescia coach Diego Lopez told the Gazzetta dello Sport. “He should have and could have done more. It’s too bad. But everyone controls their own destiny.
“He chose one path and the team has taken a different path,” Lopez added.
While Balotelli reportedly excused himself from training by presenting a doctor’s note saying he needed to take a week off for stomach troubles, the club had already had enough of him.
Lopez detailed how Balotelli did not take part in the team’s online training regime during the lockdown, and that on the few days when he did show up for practice recently, his physical conditioning was lacking.
“He’s not at the same level as the other players. That’s why he’s been training on his own,” Lopez said.
When Balotelli signed last August with Brescia — the city where he grew up with his adoptive family — it was an emotional homecoming for a player who has jumped back and forth between the Italian, English and French leagues throughout his career.
“This is my city. I can give so much more here,” he declared then.
But with only five goals in 19 Serie A matches, Balotelli’s stay at Brescia has made more headlines for the racist incidents he has had to endure than his performances.
During a game at Hellas Verona in November, he grew so frustrated by monkey chants from the home fans that he interrupted play by angrily kicking a ball high into the stands and then threatened to leave the field.
The incident in Verona sparked a nationwide debate over racism in Italy. Still, Balotelli — who is black and was born in Italy to Ghanaian immigrants — was again targeted by discriminatory chants during a match at Lazio in January.