The eventual English comprehension of Mario Balotelli

On Sunday evening Manchester City faced Arsenal in a game that, pretty much, could see their title chances either fade away or give hope of a possible resurgence.
With rivals United drifting to a 2-0 win over QPR earlier, victory at the Emirates was needed.  A Mikel Arteta strike soon put paid to that, though, leaving City eight points behind United with six games to go. Mathematically possible, sure, but – in reality – it is hard to see City putting in a convincing performance at the minute, never mind United slipping up at this late stage.
The fluidity and sheer power seen in the first half of the season has completely evaporated for City. And the man that has, slowly but surely, taken most of the flak for this demise is the man who was so revered just months ago, the ‘character’ of the Premier League, the ‘enigma’.
English football, it seems, has finally turned on Mario Balotelli.
It’s been coming. As stupid hats and toilet trips turned into car crashes and hookers, Balotelli’s actions became less innocent, more idiotic. All of a sudden, Balotelli wasn’t the lovable rogue – he’s disruptive, a trouble-maker. He’s the problem.

 

Of course, he’s not the problem at Manchester City, just one of many. There were players who put in worse performances against Arsenal, but some dangerous tackles, petulant play and a general futility up front are all more high-profile than the complete ineffectiveness of James Milner, or a clearly-exhausted performance from Sergio Aguero.
The second-half collapse of City’s season is down to many, many things but Balotelli is the easy target. When winning, a maverick’s fun; when losing, he’s a detriment to the side.
Of course, Balotelli has had poor stages of his Manchester City career and that will impact on his team, but the way in which he’s being used as a scapegoat seems a little harsh on the young Italian.
Yet, the 21-year-old has been playing football long enough now to know that going into a tackle with studs showing is stupid and doing it in a vital game such as Sunday’s is certainly that, to an almost infuriating level. It is hardly surprising, then, that Mancini feels he can’t trust Balotelli, and now seems ready to cut ties with the man he has placed so much faith in both in Manchester and Milan.
The dangerous tackles are nothing new and the free-kick blusters and common on-pitch arrogance (or ‘swagga’ as it’s called when you’re winning) seem to have all taken their toll now. Surely the negatives largely outweigh the positives for Balotelli now, given that the positives seem so intermittent in occurring? 
Even the things that originally gave Balotelli cult-hero status have been dismissed as silly rumours. In the BBC interview with Mario, it turned out that the media – whomever their sources may be – fed the nation false stories on their latest headline-commanding Premier League footballer, while Balotelli came across as reserved and, really, rather shy.
And that’s the thing, in interviews Balotelli seems like a nice, affable chap. Entirely innocent although obviously with a cheeky side and an expert in not giving a fuck. Hardly arrogant, anyway.
 

He talks of working towards being the best rather than already being there, he’s reluctant to talk about his youth and, let’s not forget, this is a man just out of his teens who’s forced to live his life under the spotlight of country that expects the very best of the celebrity youth. He’s immediately likeable, then.
But then we get to the business end of the season. Football likes its mavericks but they have to turn it on when needed. They have to be professional when it really matters. You mess about on our terms, basically.
Interruptions of Inter Milan press conferences are as bizarre as they are bewildering and one wonders whether Balotelli misses home, and the continual assertion that he’s at Manchester City because of Mancini rather than any great affiliation with the club hints at a possible exit in the summer if Mancini has had enough, or even if Mancini departs Eastlands.
Will the Premier League miss Balotelli? The striker does bring the odd chuckle, a smile to the face of fans bored by banal footballers who make up a game that is meant to be entertaining.
But a man who infuriates his own manager and fans will not last long, no matter how many titters he delivers on a weekly basis.
At the start he was loved because it was promised that he would come good, that there was good in there. Now, with the discipline continually slipping and the form so erratic, the English seem to have finally worked out Mario Balotelli. And they, overall, don’t like what they see.
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New Manchester City signing, Mario Balotelli: An examination


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.