The writing has been on the wall since perhaps the moment Mario Balotelli signed with Manchester City, and the time has now come for the club to cut ties with the Italian footballer before his distractions become too much to handle.
Balotelli's latest head-scratching move came Sunday, when, according to Ian Ladyman of The Daily Mail, he appealed the £340,000 fine the club placed on him for a stretch of poor discipline. Days later, the Italian international dropped his tribunal action (per BBC Sport) against Manchester City.
The 22-year-old cited his respect for manager Roberto Mancini, the supporters and the club as the reason for dropping his appeal, but he's shown time and time again what little respect that truly is.
During Mancini's first stint managing Balotelli with Inter, the young striker showed glimpses of discipline and strong play that weren't hindered by his spontaneous personality. But when Mancini left, Balotelli's maturity did as well. He drove Inter fans crazy until his former manager decided to give him a fresh start in Manchester.
The Manchester City skipper expected his presence to bring about more maturity. That was far from what happened.
In fact, Balotelli's odd and unexplainable antics became so common that a website was made in their hilarious honor.
Back in April, Mancini made a public outcry for Balotelli to clean up his act before it is too late (per The Guardian), saying things like "it's a big risk" to start him and that he'd "probably" sell him over the summer.
The club decided to give him one last chance to prove he can put his issues behind him, stop committing fouls and, most importantly, score goals.
Obviously, that didn't happen. He's only notched one goal in this season's Premier League campaign and racked up so many cards that his team fined him two weeks' pay.
Euro 2012 gave City fans much to be excited about, as Balotelli tore up the international stage and showed why he's regarded as an elite striker.
But upon returning to his club, that all changed.
In my mind, the final straw in this love affair was the 3-2 defeat against Manchester United earlier this season, when he was taken off after a sad performance and stared down Mancini upon exiting the field. And if that wasn't enough, he appealed a fine that he undoubtedly deserved.
There's no doubting the many behavioral reasons why Manchester City should get rid of Balotelli and end this experiment. But it must also be remembered that City can easily still compete for titles without their troubled striker.
With Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez up top as well as Edin Dzeko, it's arguable that Balotelli is an expendable player. While his best form gives the club a better chance to win, they still have a scary group of players.
Noted as one of the new-age big spenders, City could use the type of cash that would roll in by selling Balotelli. They could also take that cash and throw it at another striker who isn't such a headache.
Besides, the longer they allow Balotelli to make headlines for his disciplinary problems, the more likely that his price will drop.
There will be plenty of suitors for Balotelli the second he hits the open market. He may be troubled and bring upon distractions, but he is such a difference-maker and elite goal-scorer that struggling clubs will jump at the opportunity to add him.
Plus, this elite talent is just 22 years of age. His shelf life is incredibly long, and he has years left to mature and become a better player.
This is a low-risk, high-reward decision for Manchester City. If they don't act in the upcoming January transfer window to move Balotelli, it could end up hurting the club for years to come.