His training ground scuffle with Roberto Mancini may have been downplayed, but it is yet more evidence that the 22-year-old isn’t demonstrating the growth that is required of him.
BBCSport.co.uk quoted Mancini as saying that he would give Balotelli “100 more chances” if he felt Balotelli was capable of changing. It’s clear that Mancini feels the Italian striker has the maturity he demands, but he has yet to show it to the rest of us.
Mancini categorically stated that the incident between him and Balotelli was not a fight, but his excuse—obviously intended to protect his player—just made things worse.
It wasn't bad. We were playing a game, Mario kicked his teammate and I said to him "go inside, leave the pitch". He said "no" so I took his shirt and pushed him off the pitch. This is really what happened. Nothing special.
First of all, the fact that Balotelli kicked his own teammate during training demonstrates a level of petulance that he should have grown out of by now. Players are brought into professional football sides from a very young age, and it’s true that some are yet to fully develop when they are forced into the side.
Wayne Rooney was one such player, and while he still plays with fire and shows his frustration, his outbursts that result in red cards have diminished as he grows in stature—both as a man and a player.
Of course, it helps that Sir Alex Ferguson won’t tolerate immature behaviour that is of detriment to his team, but the fact that he has been able to retain his level of play and control his temper shows that it’s possible.
Balotelli has had long enough now.
He is an international footballer who has been the hero of European tournaments. He knows the peaks and troughs of competition as well as anyone, yet still seems to act like he is the only one on the field.
It’s good to feel the pain of defeat, but that doesn’t make him special.
The second warning sign comes from Mancini’s assertion that Balotelli refused to leave the pitch after being told, and in fact had to be dragged away by his training shirt.
This showed—again—that he has no respect for authority, even for the man who has done as much as anyone to defend him and nurture his undeniable talents.
The fact that The Daily Mirror was able to run a list of Balotelli’s craziest moments at Manchester City and was able to make it a “Top 10” goes to show that he has had more chances than he deserves.
All of this wouldn’t matter so much if he were paying his manager back with his on-field performances, but he isn’t doing that either.
Super Mario has just three goals from 21 appearances this year, while teammates Sergio Agüero, Carlos Tévez and Edin Džeko have all looked much better options than the mercurial Italian.
Mancini doesn’t need Balotelli to make the team better, and he doesn’t need the controversy that his off-field behaviour brings. It’s obvious that the manager feels he can bring out the best in him, and is prepared to defend him against all criticism, but this sort of preferential treatment isn’t helping either man.
That sort of statement would be ridiculed if it were spoken about any other player, and it simply isn’t good enough to justify Balotelli’s actions, past or present.
Balotelli has all the talent in the world, but right now he knows that he can get away with whatever he wants, which is stunting his development.
It’s time for him to be shown the door, and venture out into the real world.