I often wonder about Mario Balotelli. He has the skills, looks and desire to be a beloved footballer and win awards, and yet he hasn't. What part of his persona outshines his talent? Surely it is his erratic behaviour, on-pitch outbursts, off-pitch scandals or his superiority complex. Yet legendary players John Terry, Cristiano Ronaldo and even Diego Maradona are also guilty of one or two of those behaviours.
I pondered this question while watching the UEFA Euro 2012 quarterfinal between Portugal and Czech Republic at an airport lounge when an older gentleman sat down beside me to watch the match. He happened to be Italian; thus, I decided ask him about Mario Balotelli.
"He is crazy. But you have to understand his past. His (biological) mother and father had come from Africa (Ghana) and had given him up for adoption to a rich Italian family (Francesco and Silvia Balotelli) who gave the boy everything he wanted. When a boy has a troubled past but has everything he could ever want, he becomes spoilt. But he had the talent and he became a great footballer for Inter," said Carlo Cardella.
I could see Cardella faced an inner conflict over his view on Balotelli. He was a die-hard Inter fan and an admirer of German football. He also wanted to see his nation win the Euros.
"He's crazy. Balotelli is Balotelli, I would have him on the pitch over (Antonio) Di Natale because Balotelli can score a goal every game. Di Natale cannot," he said.
Manchester City's Roberto Mancini faced a similar conflict when Mario's on-pitch behaviour became an obstacle on the club's path to the English Premier League title.
In April 2012, Manchester City had drawn 3-3 against Sunderland with Mario netting two goals to secure a point. However, Balotelli got into an argument with his own teammate Aleksandar Kolarov over a set piece. This unprofessional behaviour is seen as a weakness in one's team and character.
Will Balotelli become an Italian legend?
Post-match, Mancini told Goal.com:
“I am frustrated because sometimes I think it is not possible that a player with his class and his technique can play a game like this. I think he is young and I hope for him he can improve very quickly for his future."
Those who were lucky to watch Italy play Ireland in the last match of the Euro 2012 group stages were able to see Balotelli's beautifully crafted volley. Balotelli's unpredictability may be confusing to his teammates, but they are even more mystifying to the opposition.
Roberto Mancini explains why he puts up with the frustration: “A player like Mario in the Premier League should score one or two goals every game."
Balotelli's Performance statistics below:
|Season 11/12||Matches Played||Goals||Assists||Yellow Cards|
Even if you aren't aware of his troubled personal life or professional attitude, a look at his performance over last season clearly illustrates Balotelli's character. The 21-year-old scored 19 goals last season at club and international level. However, he was also booked 10 times. It could be estimated that had he not received suspensions the Italian could have scored at least four more goals this season.
Regardless of his irrationalities, he is undoubtedly the one player that can lead Italy to a Euro cup win. This is what is frustrating about Balotelli, that he has the ability to win everything for his teams yet he loses focus (over what truly matters) and lets fans down.
"When I watch myself on television sometimes I don't even recognise it as me. I'm a good person with healthy principles, but I am also young and like to have fun.'' Mario Balotelli (via. ESPN)