Having emptied his locker at Milanello and bid farewell to his teammates, Mario Balotelli has returned to the Premier League with Liverpool. The 24-year-old experienced both highs and lows during his spell with his boyhood club, but unfortunately for both parties, their journey has come to an end.
After arriving to much fanfare in January 2013, Balotelli didn't disappoint during his first six months with the club. The controversial striker appeared ready to finally deliver on the promise he had shown in glimpses at Inter and Manchester City.
The hope was that the Italian international would finally mature into one of the world's best, and where better to do so than with the club that he supported as a child?
However, with the generational shift at Milan, changes in management and the continuous pressure and invasion of privacy from the media, cracks eventually began to appear.
Perhaps unfortunately for Balotelli, he was heralded as Milan's next "champion" upon his arrival, and while critics will lambast his lack of effort and sacrifice for the team, ultimately he was arguably unable to live up to their high expectations.
Mario Balotelli joins Liverpool FC
- Liverpool sign AC Milan's Balotelli
- Usher: Balotelli is worth the risk
- Brewin: Balotelli returns to Eastlands spotlight
- Marcotti: Inside the Di Maria and Balotelli deals
- Horncastle: Balotelli sale illustrates Milan delusion
- Marcotti: Balotelli is good business for Liverpool
- Inzaghi: Balotelli exit will strengthen us
While he was still regarded as Milan's best player, a lack of consistency and real leadership that was required from him was missing, so perhaps not being the focal point of a team will benefit him.
Despite scoring 30 goals in 54 games for the Rossoneri, special long-range strikes weren't enough to silence the doubters, and with Milan's regression continuing, sadly it was perhaps a matter of time before they were forced to part.
On one hand, there is sadness that Balotelli has departed. His charismatic character made him a favourite within the squad, while he was also important for the image of Milan as Silvio Berlusconi continues to lose his most prized assets.
In contrast, will he ever fully deliver on his talent? The frustrating wait will likely continue on Merseyside, as there is no guarantee that Brendan Rodgers will be able to achieve what Roberto Mancini, Cesare Prandelli and Clarence Seedorf all failed to over an extended period of time.
The decision to sell Balotelli is understandable to an extent, but there are two factors in the deal that represent further problems ahead from a Milan perspective. Based on the early speculation, it doesn't appear as though the club have already secured a replacement, with contact only now being made with Porto for Jackson Martinez.
In addition, the fee is reportedly the same as the fee at which Milan signed Balotelli -- around 16 million pounds -- and, given the nature of the transfer market in modern-day football coupled with the striker's age, it is bitterly disappointing not to see a higher fee being agreed for reinvestment in the squad.
Nevertheless, perhaps the full extent and reasons for which the decision has been made to sell have yet to be shared publicly. Perhaps Pippo Inzaghi has seen something in training that supporters haven't, or perhaps Balotelli's attitude has changed since over the summer.
While those answers may come to light in the coming days, Balotelli will have another opportunity to kick-start his career and become as good as everyone thinks he can be.
Meanwhile, Milan will have to pick themselves up quickly, as they look significantly weaker without him with the season set to start.