Why Inter Milan Should Go After Mario Balotelli in January

Sam LoprestiFeatured ColumnistNovember 27, 2012

Mario Balotelli has been in training garb more than he has been in a gameday kit this year, leading to speculation he is ready to leave Eastlands.
Mario Balotelli has been in training garb more than he has been in a gameday kit this year, leading to speculation he is ready to leave Eastlands.Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Three summers ago, Inter Milan sold striker Mario Balotelli to Manchester City for €22 million.  The reasons for the sale were many.  

Balotelli's talent was obvious, but he had been unpredictable both on the field and off.

He caused a huge controversy amongst Inter's fans when he publicly sported a Milan jersey.  His lack of effort in training triggered a feud with then-Inter manager Jose Mourinho, and team mainstays like Javier Zanetti and Marco Materazzi publicly criticized his attitude.  

The last straw came after the 2010 Champions League semifinal against Barcelona, where Balotelli threw his jersey to the ground after being subjected to jeers from Inter's fans over his poor performance in the match.  

The incident nearly sparked a physical confrontation, albeit one that would have been instigated by the fans rather than the player.

Now, after more shenanigans on the blue side of Manchester, Roberto Mancini may finally be tired of Balotelli's antics as well.  He has been buried on the depth chart at Man City, and it's not just because their roster is stacked with quality forwards.

Between his antics off the field (the list includes totaling a sports car, throwing darts at youth team players and setting his house on fire) and the four red cards he has garnered since joining the Premier League, Mancini may be ready to wash his hands of the situation.

A return to Italy has been bandied about for some time, despite the fact that Balotelli's agent, Mino Raiola, has insisted that no Italian club would be able to afford him due to the country's current economic woes.

But Raiola is merely blowing smoke (and that's definitely not out of the realm of possibility), and it would most definitely be in Inter's best interest to make a run at reacquiring the striker.

Inter has enjoyed a renaissance this year after a horrific run last year, but they are pretty thin on the frontline.

Diego Milito enjoyed a quiet resurgence during last season's debacle after "winning" the satirical bidone d'oro (literally translated: golden trash can) the year before.  He continues to serve as the focal point in the attack, supported by summer imports Rodrigo Palacio and Antonio Cassano.  

Croatian youth team product Marko Livaja is really an apprentice at this point.

The four make a decent group, but some added depth and quality would do wonders.  Palacio is solid but not spectacular, and while Cassano is definitely a world-class talent, he isn't a pure striker as much as a roving, creating forward, and his age and health after his heart operation a year ago gives one pause as to his long-term future.

Despite that, Cassano is actually the main reason why Inter should make themselves serious contenders for Balotelli.  

The two looked very much in-sync when paired off at the top of Cesare Prandelli's formation during Euro 2012.  With Cassano now able to play deeper into games than he was during the Euros, the two could form an absolutely lethal combination.

Inter sits in second place in Serie A behind Juventus—a team that has a serious deficiency at the striker position.  

Inter's defense is as much of a match for Juve's as can be had in Serie A, and if they are able to upgrade their forward line to the point where it totally outclasses the bianconeri, it may be able to offset Juve's superiority in the midfield and carry them to their first scudetto in three years.  

Massimo Moratti has thrown big money at some busts over the last few years, but Balotelli is an investment he should seriously consider making.