Liverpool misfit Mario Balotelli was subject to rumours of a move to one of the Chinese Super League’s lavish spenders before their transfer window closed last week.
The striker looks set to leave the Reds this summer, with boss Jurgen Klopp confirming his plans hold no place for the troublesome Italian.
Understandably, finding a suitor willing to take the risk on a player whose portfolio of misdemeanors ranks highly in the pantheon of ill-behaved footballers, in addition to paying his massive wages, is proving no easy task.
Liverpool – 6/4 to finish in the top four this season – would’ve no doubt welcomed interest from China, whose top teams are snapping up what reputable players they can in a bid to raise the profile of the game in their homeland, but the failure of the move to materialise is great news for Balotelli.
Following his season to forget at Anfield, in which he scored just one Premier League goal, he went on loan to former club AC Milan, where he failed to rediscover his misplaced mojo.
He notched just once in Serie A too to leave his reputation as one of Europe’s elite marksmen in ruins.
Given the lower quality of opposition defences, a stint in China may have initially seemed the perfect outpost with which to rebuild shattered confidence, but on closer inspection, Balotelli dodged a bullet.
The scoring records of those blockbuster buys made by Super League sides during their recent winter recruitment drive suggest it’s not a place for the flat-track bully to thrive, as per general expectations.
Colombian marksman Jackson Martinez restored some poaching credibility at Guangzhou Evergrande, scoring three times in his five outings, but the reading isn’t as rosy elsewhere.
Take Alex Teixeira, for instance; he fired an outrageous 22 goals in 15 Ukrainian Premier League games before making a £38m move to Jiangsu Suning. He’s featured in 17 matches since, scoring just four times.
Burak Yilmaz once netted eight goals in as many starts in the 2012/13 Champions League with Galatasaray, but has found the net just once in six Super League outings for Beijing Guoan.
Elsewhere, it’s three in 14 for Gervinho, as many in 13 for Obafemi Martins, Jo has five in 17 and, quite incredibly, Ezequiel Lavezzi is yet to score from ten Hebei China Fortune appearances.
Struggles of this magnitude would’ve all but killed Balotelli’s hopes of a reprieve in one Europe’s top leagues.