Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Good riddance to a troublemaker

He has been a two-and-a-half year nightmare for Roberto Mancini, but the game is now up for Mario Balotelli, and the Manchester City manager can say good riddance to the troublesome striker.

Too often Balotelli appeared to behave more as a celebrity than a footballer, and allowed his profession to play second fiddle as fulfilling showbiz duty appeared to be of the utmost importance. During his time at Manchester City, the most talked about incidents involving Balotelli happened off the pitch. The most famous image of Mario may well be of him partying with Paris Hilton in Ibiza.

Having been offered a chance to prove himself again at Milan, Balotelli needs to distance himself from hedonistic indulgences and study how a serious sports person, such as Jessica Ennis, behaves. In a professional sense, Ennis is the anti-Balotelli. When on the Graham Norton Show alongside Ricky Gervais and Daniel Radcliffe, Ennis talked passionately about her training, brought her Olympic heptathlon gold medal to show and share, and left the joke cracking to the others.

Acting foolishly isn't her domain and she made no attempt to pretend it was. Were Balotelli on the show Norton could have quizzed him about the time he set fireworks off in his bathroom and nearly burnt his house down in the process, or when he threw a dart at a youth team player at training, or whether the fake Santa driving around Manchester handing out wads of cash was indeed him. He would hardly be recognisable as a footballer, but it's not a bad way to earn £180,000 a week, eh?

Aside from the outlandish tomfoolery, Balotelli scored 30 goals in 80 games for City and was a certainty from the penalty spot. However, he received four red cards and 23 yellows; that's just three fewer cards than goals scored. He fought Micah Richards, he fought his manager. He made it extremely difficult for any sincere City fan to take to him.

In an unforgettable demonstration of his huge potential Balotelli scored two pivotal goals to fire Italy to the Euro 2012 final, which led many believers to predict that he would start the 2012/13 season in the same devastating form. That never happened. Balotelli has scored one league goal all season; his attitude in training and on the pitch coupled with his antics off it led him to become the club's fourth choice senior striker, and subsequently being sold halfway through their title defence.

When Milan swooped with an offer of around £20m for the talent-wasting striker, Mancini could have hardly believed his luck. It allowed him to end the nightmare of nurturing Balotelli from wild to world beater with minimal transfer fee lost. Balotelli's ability is obvious but his application is sadly lacking.
photo by Piotr Drabik

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