Mario Balotelli has long been thought of as a player with huge potential, but many had given up on him after he flopped at Liverpool. Now aged 26, Balotelli may have finally found a home at Ligue 1 side Nice.

Nice flying high

Balotelli netted twice on Sunday in a 2-1 win over Dijon. That victory ensured that Nice will remain top of Ligue 1 going into Wednesday’s final round of fixtures before the festive break. Nice have well and truly earned their status, losing just once in 18 games so far this season.

Not only are they top of Ligue 1, Nice sit seven points clear of defending champions and pre-season favourites PSG.

The Parisian side boast world-class talent including former Brazil captain Thiago Silva and Uruguay striker Edinson Cavani, but they are struggling to hit the heights of previous years under new manager Unai Emery.

Balotelli puts past struggles behind him

Despite seeing his campaign disrupted by injuries, Balotelli has been a revelation for the French side. He has eight goals in as many Ligue 1 games. The Italian’s blistering form comes after two seasons in the proverbial wilderness – he had managed just one league goal in each of the past two campaigns at Liverpool and then on loan at AC Milan.

His time at Liverpool was undoubtedly the low point of a rollercoaster career. He had previously enjoyed sporadic success at Manchester City under Roberto Mancini, scoring some crucial goals including two in the famous 6-1 win at Old Trafford in 2011.

He has also produced match-winning displays for Italy, notably in a Euro 2012 semi-final win over Germany. It is that potential that persuaded Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers to pay £17 million for his services in 2014.

However, he flopped spectacularly, netting just four times in 28 games across all competitions. Jurgen Klopp was unsurprisingly keen to release Balotelli when he arrived in Merseyside, and few could argue that he has regretted that decision.

Nice was seen as a last-chance saloon for Balotelli, but the Italian finally appears to be delivering on his promise.

The sight of him wearing a Santa hat after Sunday’s win was not out of character, but it does suggest he feels at home in Nice. It will be interesting to see whether Balotelli can continue to show the consistency needed to justify his once lofty reputation.