Jose Mourinho once said that he “has incredible qualities, but sometimes does not know how to use his brain”. The former Chelsea manager excluded him from the senior side in January because he refused to train. He has been subject to racist chanting from many opposition fans and the controversy that he has created through his shocking attitude has riled the world of football. Now, Manchester City have decided to fork out £24 million for Mario Balotelli.
The Italian forward scored twenty goals in fifty-nine appearances for Inter Milan, where he spent three seasons in the capital. Balotelli has made only one appearance for the Italian senior side, playing in Cesare Prandelli’s first match in charge of Italy against Ivory Coast.
As Balotelli, who is often nicknamed ‘Super Mario’, was born to Ghanaian parents who immigrated to Italy, Palermo at first, the forward was not allowed to play for Italy at under-15 or under-17 level as he was considered a Ghanaian international. Balotelli was called up to the Ghana squad in 2007 but he declined the offer, stating that he wanted to play for Italy once he became eligible.
Balotelli, who can play anywhere on the front line, was called up to the Italian under-21s, where he went on to make sixteen appearances, scoring six goals. The new Manchester City recruit was seen to be a great talent, even at the young age of fifteen when he joined Internazionale, initially on a loan deal from Lumezzane. It was certainly not all plain sailing for the young striker, though.
Born Mario Barwuah, his life started with serious complications. As a child Balotelli struggled with life-threatening problems with his intestines which meant that he had to have a series of operations. By the age of two, however, his condition had improved. At the age of three Balotelli’s parents decided that they could no longer look after the young boy and so he was fostered to Francesco and Silvio Balotelli. Mario later described his birth-parents, when they began to come back onto the scene, as “glory hunters”, stating that they only wanted him back because he was famous. Balotelli had to wait until his 18th birthday to receive his Italian passport, which then prompted the call-up to the under-21 side.
After playing for Lumezzane’s senior side at the age of fifteen, making two appearances, the striker was soon spotted by giants Inter. At first he only joined on loan but made the move permanent in 2007. He made his debut in December of that year, against Cagliari, and scored his first goals for the club against Reggina only three days later, in a match that Inter won 4-1. Inter went on to win the league that season, giving Balotelli his first Serie A title at the age of seventeen. Balotelli was rewarded with a three year contract before the new season, in which he scored his first Champions League goal against Anorthosis Famagusta. This made him the youngest Inter player ever to score in the Champions League.
The real talking point of Balotelli’s career, though, came in April, 2009. The striker scored Inter’s goal in a 1-1 draw with Juventus after a fine pass from Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Balotelli was then racially abused by Juve fans, with chants such as “Black Italians don’t exist” being heard from the crowd. Juventus were handed a one game home fan ban as a result of the chanting.
There was more controversy to come for the striker, though. Mourinho accused Balotelli of showing a lack of effort in training, stating that “as far as I’m concerned, a young boy like him cannot allow himself to train less than people like Figo, Córdoba, and Zanetti.” The player continued to be the victim of racial abuse from opposition crowds throughout that season, with Juventus the main perpetrators. The next season was much the same for the striker, with Mourinho leaving him out of the side for the Champions League game against Chelsea. The striker then appeared on an Italian television show, where he wore an AC Milan shirt. This was followed by a public apology after Balotelli was, rightly so, hugely criticised.
The Italian is sure to create a stir in the Manchester City ranks as he is just another massive ego to enter the Eastlands club. Roberto Mancini, who managed Balotelli at Inter and has now brought him to Manchester, says that the player’s temper is nothing worry about: “Like all the young men, sometimes his behaviour is not good. But it is wrong to say he is not a good man. I don’t believe he will have a big problem.”
Balotelli is an exciting talent and the fact that Mancini now has Carlos Tevez, Emmanuel Adebayor and the Italian striker vying for a place in the front line is quite staggering. Balotelli did not feature in the first game of the new season (Tottenham Hotspur 0 Manchester City 0) in which Tevez played up front on his own with David Silva and Shaun Wright-Phillips on the wings. If the 20-year-old can produce the sort of quality that he did at Inter on regular occasions, though, the City faithful are sure to be happy.