Mario Balotelli, Manchester City and Italy striker.
From the moment Balotelli made his debut for Inter Milan as a young striker, his career has been littered with controversy, falling outs with his managers including Jose Mourinho, and off the field issues including when setting a firework off in his own bathroom.
On the pitch the Italian international forward is something of an enigma, brilliant in one game and virtually invisible the next. It was Mancini’s frustration with 22-year-old Balotelli in training that caused Thursday’s incident between the pair, the City manager admitted.
But for all of Balotelli’s failings on the pitch at times, there have been moments of brilliance and some key contributions, too. Here we take a look at six of Balotelli’s best performances on a football field.
Balotelli, who had only made his first-team debut the previous month, led the Inter Milan attached, scoring the opening goal after 10 minutes and then again in the 52nd minute. It was his second goal that proved to be the match-winner as Inter Milan recorded a 5-4 aggregate win.
A first Premier League hat-trick for Mario Balotelli inspired a 4-0 victory for Manchester City during the busy Christmas period.
Balotelli opened the scoring from the penalty spot after just eight minutes and, after Joleon Lescott had doubled the lead shortly afterwards, the Italian international found the net again on the 27-minute mark. He completed a comfortable victory with a second penalty after 55 minutes, making his biggest contribution since signing for City.
He may not have found the net in Manchester City’s 1-0 win over Stoke City in the FA Cup Final at Wembley, but Balotelli produced a man of the match performance on attack to help City lift their first major trophy in 35 years.
Balotelli was close to a first-half goal, only to see Stoke goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen produce a brilliant one-handed save to keep the ball out. Balotelli’s team-mate Yaya Toure struck the winning goal 16 minutes from time.
The game will always be remembered for Balotelli’s “Why Always Me?” message displayed under his shirt after scoring the opening goal. The game, of course, came the day after he had set a firework off inside his own bathroom.
At Old Trafford in the Manchester derby he was at his brilliant best in a remarkable 6-1 for Manchester City, opening the scoring after 22 minutes in which he unveiled his message, and then doubling the lead on the hour-mark having already played a significant role in the dismissal of Manchester United defender Jonny Evans.
There was time for a booking for Balotelli before he was substituted after 70 minutes for Edin Dzeko, who scored two more goals in the victory.
Two-goal Balotelli played a key role in a late comeback to earn a point, which eventually proved crucial as Manchester City landed the Premier League title on the final day of the EPL season.
His first goal came two minutes before half-time from the penalty spot to level the scores. But with City staring at a 3-1 defeat, Balotelli rifled home from the edge of the area five minutes from time to inspire a comeback and, just a minute later, City levelled thanks to an Alexsandar Kolorov free-kick to earn a 3-3 draw. The point proved crucial to City’s eventual title success.
Having been a mixed bag during the 2012 European Championships, Mario Balotelli saved his best performance for the semi-finals as his two goals secured a 2-1 victory for Italy over Germany and a place in the final of the tournament.
He opened the scoring after 20 minutes with a headed goal and there was better to come 16 minutes later, as Balotelli latched onto a throughball and thumped home a strike into the top corner with the goal enough to hold off Germany despite an injury time goal. Italy went on to finish runners-up to Spain in the final.