Mario Balotelli: Bought for €21.8 million, sold for free

Mario Balotelli endured a miserable time while at Liverpool. Photo / Photosport
Mario Balotelli endured a miserable time while at Liverpool. Photo / Photosport

French side Nice have signed controversial striker Mario Balotelli from Liverpool on a free transfer.

The 26-year-old joined Liverpool from AC Milan in 2014 for a fee of £16 million (NZD$29 million) but never fulfilled his potential at Anfield.

"We hope that, at Nice, with a family atmosphere, (Mario) will rediscover the pleasure of playing," Nice president Jean-Pierre Rivere told the club's website.

"We know, him and us, that it's not going to be easy, but with desire and, I hope, the backing of all of our supporters, we are going to help him to blossom and to bring all of his talent to the team's service."

He scored one goal in 16 Premier League appearances in his first campaign at the Merseyside club and was sent back to Milan on loan last season where he found the net once in 20 appearances during an injury-hit campaign.

Balotelli, one of modern football's mavericks, won the Champions League and three Serie A titles with Inter Milan and lifted the Premier League and the FA Cup during a two-and-a-half year spell with Manchester City, but is considered a shadow of the player he was in his prime.

Bought from Inter Milan at the age of 20 for €21.8 million (NZD$33.5 million) in 2012, he peaked that year during Manchester City's Premier League winning campaign and Italy's runners-up effort at the European Championship, scoring 17 goals in 32 appearances for his club, while finishing top-equal goal scorer at the Euros.

Since then, however, the erratic striker has failed to fire, netting just 7 goals in 51 appearances across the past two seasons with Liverpool and AC Milan, where he spent last season on loan, while he hasn't been seen in the Italian national side since November 2014.

The transfer fee of £0 that Nice have snapped the Italian up for is indicative of his decline in form since his €21.8 million transfer six years ago, and at the relatively young age of 26, the controversial figure will hope his move to Nice will be the starting point of a mid-career revival.

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