We ‘signed’ Balotelli for Newcastle in January to see just how crazy it would be
Newcastle have been linked with a sensational move for former Manchester City and Liverpool striker Mario Balotelli, with the Magpies continuing their search for attacking reinforcements this month.
With the end of the transfer window quickly approaching, it seems Howe may be turning to alternative options, including a surprise move for Balotelli, who is currently enjoying his football in Turkey with Adana Demirspor.
The Magpies have already signed both Kieran Trippier and Chris Wood this month to help their survival bid, and are being linked with a host of high-profile players this month, with Newcastle currently sat in 19th place, two points away from safety.
Balotelli has grabbed seven goals and two assists in 18 league games this season for his side, and according to Turkish outlet Fanatik, the president of the Italian strikers current club, Murat Sancak, has claimed Newcastle were considering Balotelli, but no official offer has been made.
Sancak has also revealed that the striker has a release clause in his contract which could be triggered this month, meaning Balotelli could leave the club not long after his arrival last summer.
So, to find out if Balotelli could have any sort of immediate impact at Newcastle, we simulated the rest of the season with the Italian at the Magpies from January, and this is what happened.
We 'signed' Mario Balotelli for Newcastle in January 2022
To set up this simulation, we used the Football Manager 2022 editor to arrange for Balotelli to join Newcastle at the start of the January 2022 transfer window, using FM22 to run the simulation.
This is how Balotelli's in-game profile looks on FM22.
Described by the media in FM22 as a nomadic striker, Balotelli's profile vividly reflects how he plays in real life – a technically strong forward with weak mental attributes.
His penalty-taking (18), technique (16), long shots (16) and strength (16) are his best attributes, but his low work rate (5) concentration (6) and determination (7) are very poor for an elite footballer.
Let's take a look at how Balotelli performed throughout the second half of the 2021/22 season after signing for the Toon in January 2022.
The Italian struggled to make a real impact at the club, with the striker's game time being somewhat limited, sitting behind Chris Wood and Callum Wilson in the pecking order.
Throughout the season, Balotelli managed a total of 14 appearances, with five of those coming off the bench.
But the 31-year-old did three goals throughout the season whilst averaging a rating of 6.88 per game, not a bad record for a player of Balotelli's calibre. However, the Italian's lack of discipline was also on show during the season, with Balotelli getting sent off in his one and only FA Cup appearance for the club.
In the January transfer window, Newcastle went on to make another four signings to join Balotelli, Kieran Trippier and Chris Wood at the club, with the new quartet costing a total of £117m.
Defensive duo Niklas Sule and Nordi Mukiele both signed for the Magpies, whilst midfielders Idrissa Gueye and Diego Demme also joined to strengthen the core of the squad.
This is the starting XI Howe chose for Newcastle's final game of the Premier League season.
Full Newcastle best XI: (4-4-2): Dubravka; Trippier, Sule, Mukiele, Lewis; Almiron, Longstaff, Demme, Saint-Maximin; Wood, Wilson.
Compared to Newcastle's other strikers, Balotelli registered the worst goal return at the club, whilst he managed the second-worst rating, behind Callum Wilson and Chris Wood.
Despite the two new additions up front, Wilson still managed to be the outright top scorer at the club, managing 21 goals in all competition for the Toon in 46 appearances.
Wood made the same amount of appearances as Balotelli and managed just one more goal, but he had a much higher average rating – his 7.07 per game the best out of all the attackers.
So, how did the Magpies perform in the league after signing Balotelli in the January transfer window?
Newcastle's results from the 2021/22 simulation
Newcastle finished 17th in the Premier League table and earned their survival in the league for another season by just one point, despite Leeds' late push towards safety.
Howe's side finished the campaign on 37 points, 25 points more than they currently have, meaning if the Magpies were to replicate the simulation, they would need to collect 25 points in their next 18 games – a tough task based on their season so far.
Overall, Football Manager predicts that if Newcastle did sign Balotelli, that decision would be based more around what he's done in the past, rather than his ability now, with the Italian failing to make a significant impact, other than the odd goal here or there.
Should Newcastle sign Balotelli in the January transfer window? Let us know in the comments!
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