Mario Balotelli: Production in Euro 2012 Validates Mercurial Personality

Ian HanfordFeatured ColumnistJune 28, 2012

WARSAW, POLAND - JUNE 28:  Mario Balotelli (R) of Italy celebrates with team-mate Claudio Marchisio after scoring his team's second goal as Philipp Lahm of Germany shows his dejection during the UEFA EURO 2012 semi final match between Germany and Italy at the National Stadium on June 28, 2012 in Warsaw, Poland.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Michael Regan/Getty Images

Mario Balotelli isn't always the nicest guy, the hardest worker or the easiest player to manage, but he scores goals. After Italy's 2-1 victory over Germany in the Euro 2012 semifinals, Balotelli has three goals in five games.

He is one of the world's most dynamic talents, but also one of the world's biggest thorns. He runs his mouth, makes errant decisions and only plays when he wants to play. Everything is on his terms, but when a player is this talented he can do things like that.

Every sport has a handful of "diva" attitudes. Wide receivers in the NFL, pitchers in baseball and virtually every basketball player in the world has a tremendous ego. Soccer players are no different, and Balotelli takes the cake.

In this case though, his production outweighs everything. Italy doesn't have a dynamic scorer outside of his presence at the top of their attack. They have significant amounts of distributors (headlined by Andrea Pirlo), but Balotelli is their most lethal goal-scorer.

Balotelli's two goals in the Euro semifinals validate his play. He stepped up for his underdog side and delivered the biggest performance of his tournament. His first goal showed good awareness. His second goal came off a wonderful through ball and finish past Manuel Neuer.

He focused enough to penetrate the German defense and he did his job when it mattered the most. That's the true mark of a player on any stage.

Balotelli is always going to be himself. His brash personality is always going to alienate a certain sector of the soccer world, but Italy won't mind in the end.

This 21-year-old striker is headed for a decorated career, a multitude of sound bytes and a world-renowned reputation. Some of it may be good and some of it may be bad, but, with this kind of talent you're willing to sit back and watch it happen.