“He is a fantastic player but I hope for him he can understand that he can change his behaviour in the future. He will probably not play in the next six games.”
Those are the words of Roberto Mancini, the man who knows Mario Balotelli since he was 15 years old and brought him to Manchester City from Inter Milan. For a manager to try so hard and then admit that he might try and sell him in the future must be difficult to gulp.
Mario Balotelli is a 21-year-old genius when it comes to scoring goals. And an absolute dud when it comes to making tackles, curbing his temper and living a life which is not showered on the back pages of England’s sensationalist tabloids.
The first tackle he made last night in a crunch game against Arsenal was worthy of a straight red card. In fact, he did end up being sent off for two bad challenges later in the game, but he should still send a greeting card to the referee for not condemning him to a three-match ban on his first foul itself.
He has been called ‘Super Mario’ by journalists and maybe it comes from the fact that Super Mario was a similar character in the 8-bit video games that the world was hooked on to some 10-15 years ago. When you wanted him to squash tortoises and earn a ‘One-up’, Mario would easily oblige. But when you wanted to do something as easy as jump from one ledge to the other, he would fall into the unknown—leaving the person controlling him exasperated.
Balotelli is just like that. Ask him to score a 90th minute penalty to put his side ahead in a crucial title-race match, and he can do it with the calm reminiscent of how Zinedine Zidane would take his spot-kicks.
If you put him outside the box at Old Trafford and he can curl in an inch perfect goal past a sea of quality defenders, turn his back to the crowd and unleash a t-shirt saying ‘Why Always Me’.
And just in case you’ve forgotten, he stood as cool as an iceberg when a high ball came to him near the goal line and as if he was too bored to move a muscle, shrugged his shoulders and scored. Absolute quality.
But he has a timeline of incredible controversy—be it his comments or his antics off field….problems follow Mario like an unwanted shadow.
Here are some of the things he has said in the past, which include his time at Inter Milan-
- “I do not feel for Inter inside. If I don't play, I'll leave — it is as simple as that."
- “My biological parents have talked of two people forcing them to give their child up for adoption due to poverty. This is false because nobody forced them to leave me at the hospital as a newborn baby and to disappear in the years that followed. For 16 years I didn't even receive a phone call on my birthday, but now they make contact after I have become a Serie A footballer.” (Balotelli was fostered in Italy)
- “I am a Milanista. Didn’t you know that?” (This, while playing for bitter rivals Inter)
He recently gave his first video interview to the BBC during his time in England on one condition—he would not speak to the reporter, but he would do it if City fan and Oasis singer Noel Gallagher would conduct it.
Some of the things he said in the interview clearly prove that he just a kid with lots of money. “A guy walked up to me at the Trafford Centre and showed me a couple of magic tricks…so I invited him to my house to learn them. I only know one trick though but it is very hard.”
He denied a lot of rumours surrounding him which include ridiculous one like Mario walking around dressed as Santa Claus on Christmas and distributing money to people, stopping at a petrol pump and paying for everybody’s petrol and taking a kid to school because he was loitering around City’s training ground for autographs while bunking a class.
But well, he did admit to a legendary one. Apparently, his mum had asked him to go and get an ironing board for the house and Balotelli ends up at the store buying a quad bike.
And a ping-pong table? “No not a ping-pong table… it was a trampoline.”
Such is the innocence of Mario Balotelli that it edges towards the insane. The man can score goals from 35 yards out and not even smile in celebration but he will smile while mentioning how he almost set fire to his house because of lighting a firecracker under a metal bin on his toilet pan.
Balotelli is a child who is brilliant at football and incredibly bad at everything else.
But for him to be one of the world’s best, which he surely can, he needs to start thinking with his head… and not his feet.