Jose Mourinho once claimed Mario Balotelli was “unmanageable” and maybe the Manchester City hierarchy should have listened a little bit harder to the "Special One’s" damning verdict before deciding to shell out £22.5 million to bring the player to Eastlands in Aug 2010.
However, manager Roberto Mancini assured his paymasters that he was capable of taming the wild beast to bring out the best in the mercurial front man and, in fairness to City, how often before in football have we seen one player appear a total misfit at a certain club, or clubs, before then going on to star under the guidance of a different individual?
And what’s more, Mancini seemed to know how best to treat and handle his temperamental compatriot, having coached him for one season while the pair were together at Inter Milan (2007-08), most probably because he could see a little bit of himself in Balotelli having been a hot-tempered bad boy in his early playing days with Sampdoria and for the Azzurri.
But now enough is enough and a line needs to be drawn in the sand as far as "Super Mario" and his City career are concerned, in spite of what his persuasive and at times noisy agent Mino Raiola has had to say on the matter.
There is no negotiation for Balotelli with any club, no meeting, zero. It seems like a Grimm Brothers fairy tale
And by all accounts, it appears as though even his mentor Mancini has finally come round to the view held by the majority of those on Planet Football, that Mario just ain’t worth the hassle, especially when your own job is hanging precariously by a thread and some believe, rightly or wrongly, that the manager’s future at the club is intrinsically linked to that of Balotelli’s.
Mancini has continually put his neck on the line for a player he considers to be almost a son, and it is fair to say that he has not repaid him, not even remotely, with recently installed City executives Txiki Begiristain and Ferran Soriano now left with the highly unenviable task of finding a new home for the troublesome Italy international, while at the same time attempting to get a return on their original £22.5m investment.
Reports of late have been rife about Balotelli joining the club he supported as a boy, AC Milan, and my understanding is that City want at least €30m for the striker, although that is a mind-boggling figure for a player who there must be 30 million reasons NOT to buy.
Should Man City keep hold of Baloetlli?|
On the field of play, the 22-year-old has flattered to deceive on more occasions than I care to remember, regularly failing to show up for the matches that matter most and delivering for his team sporadically, when he is in the mood, while his only world-class quality appears to be his penalty-taking, making him a risky investment to say the very least, and that is even before one considers his off-the-pitch behaviour, which at times is nothing short of unprofessional.
Whether it be the trips to the women’s prison, the “Why always me?" T-shirt, starting a fire in his house after setting off fireworks in the bathroom, throwing darts at City youth-team players, or the recent very public training-ground spat with Mancini (and that is only the half of it by the way), this is a player that brings a lot of baggage with him.
Now, there have been countless other footballers down the years with similar, if not worse, sides to their character (think George Best or Paul Gascoigne for one), but at the end of the day in this industry, it is fairly simple: if you are performing on the pitch, then these extracurricular activities are excused. If, on the other hand, you have scored just the solitary league goal all season, then they are used to beat you, and that I am afraid is the case with Mario.
As always with cases such as these, the truth is somewhere in the middle: Balotelli is neither the “rotten apple” that Milan president Silvio Berlusconi recently labelled him, nor will he ever go on to be crowned the Fifa Ballon d’Or winner, as former Inter CEO Ernesto Paolillo claimed.
I can forecast in the future that he will be the winner, like Messi, of the Ballon D’Or — because he really is one of the most talented players in Europe.
The sad thing about Mario is that when his career finally draws to a close, people will still be talking about his off-field escapades as opposed to man-of-the-match displays like the one he turned in for Italy in their Euro 2012 semi-final upset over Germany in Warsaw last June. But when the dust settles you get the feeling that, similar to his City career, that performance will prove to be the exception rather than the norm.