Mario Balotelli. The man, the myth, the history-maker.
Now banging in the goals for his hometown club Brescia, Balotelli converted his first of the new year against Lazio on Sunday, and in doing so became the first scorer in Serie A of the new decade.
A great record to hold, but nothing spectacular, one might think. Well, what if I told you that the maverick striker pulled off the exact same trick on the beginning of the previous decade, too?
That’s right, ?Mario Balotelli managed to score the first goal of 2010 in Serie A, and then repeated this feat in 2020, too.
Given the off-field problems that have plagued the Italian striker throughout his career, we should all be thankful that he is still plying his trade at the highest level to achieve this incredible record.
But this particular quirk got us thinking: What are the most peculiar statistics to have been unearthed over the course of this season?
90min investigates (with the help of our good friends ?Opta).
Black & Yellow Mist
When you’re in the middle of a relegation dogfight, the key is to keep your heads when those around you are losing them.
Someone needs to tell ?Watford that. The Hornets have had a player sent off in each of their last three games in all competitions – and guess who was the last Premier League team to achieve such an unwanted feat?
That’s right. Watford themselves, back in December 2017.
Let them know you’re there early on, lads.
Chris Wild-Var Hates Technology
?Sheffield United have made an incredible start to life back in the Premier League, and the Blades have sliced and diced their way to eighth place in the table. But where would they be without damned technology?
Well, Chris Wilder’s men have had an incredible FIVE goals chalked off through VAR decisions this season, and a total of seven decisions have gone against them. Strikes against Southampton, Tottenham, Brighton (twice), and Manchester City were all ruled out, costing the Blades valuable points along the way.
VAR vs Wilder is an impossible fight that I’d love to witness.
The Goddess of Goals
?When you think of the highest scorers in Italy, who immediately springs to mind?
Well, ?Juventus have ?Cristiano Ronaldo, so it’s got to be them, right? Wrong.
What about ?Napoli, with their attacking trident of Dries Mertens, José Callejon and Lorenzo Insigne? Try again, friends.
Okay, I’ll put you out of your misery – it’s Atalanta! La Dea has scored 46 goals so far – prior to this season, the last Serie A team with so many goals after 18 games were Juventus in 1959/60.
Put stat in your pipe and smoke it.
Theatre of Nightmares
?I had a recurring dream as a child that a giant clown was chasing me and my family through some sand dunes, and my despicable parents and sister left me for dead in a giant sand castle.
So I think we can all relate to how ?Manchester United must be feeling, as they suffer the persistent nightmare of being battered by their local rivals on their own turf.
?Manchester City are responsible for four of Manchester United’s last 12 defeats at Old Trafford in all competitions, a stat which must leave the Red Devils tossing and turning in their beds, crying out ‘please Sergio, no more! Leave Phil Jones alone, he means no harm!’
Year of The Budgerigars
If you’re a ?Barcelona supporter, then 2019 probably wasn’t too kind to you. La Blaugrana looked set to compete in the prestigious Champions League final, before ?Liverpool decided to humiliate them in a similar fashion to that which Roma dished out the season prior.
With their title defence hanging in the balance this year, Ernesto Valverde’s men were minutes away from kicking off the new decade with a win, until Espanyol striker Wu Lei bagged a huge equaliser for the struggling hosts.
With that strike, Wu Lei became the first Chinese player to score vs Barcelona in all competitions ever, and Los Periquitos (that’s right – the Budgerigars) had a new hero. What a story!
Andy Carroll Doing Peak Andy Carroll Things
?If there was a ‘Least Surprising Stat of the Season’ award, then this one would probably finish first, second and third. ?Newcastle United striker ?Andy Carroll is a big bloke, and he loves a header or two (that’s not the stat).
So are we shocked that he won 24 aerial duels against ?Everton; the most in a single Premier League game since Opta started recording this data in 2006-07? Nah, we ain’t.
Fernando Fox in The Box
?Speaking of big fellas – how much do we all miss Fernando Llorente in the Premier League? Some players hate being pigeonholed as one dimensional, but big Fernando has truly embraced the role of ‘immobile head on a stick’.
The Spanish striker has a habit of being in the right place at the right time, and that ‘right place’ just happens to be the penalty area.
The 34-year-old has been tapping and nodding home some important goals over the past decade, and by the end of 2019, he had racked up all 96 of his goals from inside the box.
That tally is more than any other player within the top five European Leagues.
Here’s to another decade of tap-ins, Fernando.