Legendary Italy midfielder Andrea Pirlo believes Mario Balotelli “has no more time to waste” if he is to realise his potential.
Balotelli has returned to Liverpool’s pre-season training following a season-long loan with AC Milan, but has been told he is surplus to requirements under Jurgen Klopp.
The 25-year-old scored just three goals in 23 games for the Serie A side in 2015/16, and now faces a fight to find a viable suitor in the summer transfer window.
Speaking on duty with New York City, Pirlo stressed that Balotelli is running out of time to prove his worth.
“Mario should not just be a character the media write about for good stories,” he said.
“We shouldn’t forget what a special player he is.
“I have played with some of the best strikers, and I can tell you Mario has all the attributes to be one of the best strikers in the world.
“By now I thought that is where he would be, that is where he should be. He has no more time to waste.”
Pirlo’s storied career has taken in spells with Inter Milan, AC Milan and Juventus, with his experience of performing alongside top-level strikers vast.
Meanwhile, Balotelli has already turned out for Inter, Manchester City, Milan and Liverpool, but may struggle to find another major side to take him on this summer.
Serie A newcomers Crotone have seemed the most likely destination, though whether Balotelli would make the move to Calabria remains to be seen, while a host of Chinese Super League clubs were believed to be chasing his signature.
But Pirlo advised Balotelli against making the move to East Asia, saying “he still has time to make it at the very top.”
“He needs to pick his next club carefully,” he continued.
“I have read things about him and China. With all respect to their league, Mario should not be going there yet.
“If he has two or three good seasons at his next club, he will still only be 28 and could join one of the top clubs in Europe.
“I don’t have any advice for him anymore, he knows the qualities that he has.
“From this point, it’s up to Mario.”
It would seem that Pirlo is warning Balotelli that he must take a step down in order to resurrect his career, and that would certainly be possible with Crotone.
Liverpool are yet to receive any offers for the striker at this stage, however, as they too face a fight to find buyer.