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Mario Balotelli's Super Transformation At Nice Suggests Ballon d'Or Dream Isn't Wholly Implausible

21/12/2016 17:16 GMT | Updated 22/12/2016 09:57 GMT
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​Mario Balotelli keeps talking about his dream of winning the Ballon d'Or but, if he keeps performing at the level he is currently exhibiting with Nice, we may have to start listening.

Rejected and disillusioned following an unremittingly miserable spell at Liverpool, Balotelli's time at football's high-table looked up. He had captured imaginations at Manchester City as the thrilling, rebellious striker whose fractious relationship with Roberto Mancini played out like something from EastEnders - but Anfield was a different story.

​Brendan Rodgers admitted that signing the seemingly ungovernable striker was a 'calculated risk' but, following just a single senior goal for the club, calculations were not required to sum up his time as a Liverpool as a disaster.

In the summer, Balotelli was offered an unlikely escape route by Nice. With his Premier League career in tatters, he accepted the challenge, and it's transpired to be one of the better decisions the player has made in his often tumultuous professional career.

Yes, the only fireworks Balotelli has been making in Ligue 1 has been in front of goal for the Lucien Favre's soaring Les Aiglons side. Indeed, after scoring twice in their 2-1 victory over Dijon on Sunday, Balotelli has scored eight goals in eight games, scoring a goal every 88 minutes.

It's a remarkable turnaround and one that may prove to be momentous for Balotelli as he gleefully writes a positive chapter into the story of his career. Indeed, while Balotelli is undoubtedly loving his football on the French Riviera, a player of his stature is surely harbouring ambitions of returning to Europe's elite.

For now, Balotelli is flourishing in the south of France, and it's warming to see him turn a corner. In Nice, the Italian has found the ideal environment in which to resurrect his career. Captured as Nice's marquee signing in the summer, Balotelli has thrived alongside Alassane Plea up front.

Balotelli's recalcitrance often leads to a breakdown in relationships with figures of authority, namely his managers, but he is enjoying a productive working arrangement with Favre, who has masterminded Nice's ascent to Ligue 1's summit.

That Balotelli is acting as a central character in Nice's blossoming French fairytale so soon after finding nothing but problems at Liverpool represents one of the greater footballing metamorphoses in recent times.

As a complex personality, many onlookers predicted an extended period in the doldrums for Balotelli following his Liverpool departure, but he has emphatically proved doubters wrong during his maiden voyage in France; he has truly transformed and one hopes that we continue to see the Balotelli of new, as opposed to the frowning troublemaker that ruffled Mancini's feathers, or the misfiring lost cause who was so abruptly deemed surplus to requirements by Jurgen Klopp.

He remains a world away from being considered for the Ballon d'Or but, should he stay fit and fully focused on his football, Balotelli's career will continue on the same upward trajectory. For now, football is just glad to have him back scoring goals on a regular basis with a smile stretching from ear to ear - football benefits from colourful personalities, as long as they back up their idiosyncrasies with quality on the pitch.

If Jamie Vardy can crack the Ballon d'Or top ten at 29, Balotelli - still only 26 - can certainly enter similar territory.

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