Mario Balotelli's transfer from Manchester City to Milan marks a sad day for the Premier League (via BBC Sport).
English football has lost one of its main treasures. The league was dragged through the mud in 2012, as stories of racism and diving grabbed the headlines on almost a weekly basis. At a time where the likes of John Terry and Luis Suarez are the subject of fierce villainy, Mario Balotelli went about his business as if the cameras were off.
He threw darts at a youth team player (via BBC Sport), set fireworks off in his own home (via The Guardian), brawled with teammates, Roberto Mancini and vowed to kill anyone aiming racist abuse in his direction (via The Daily Mail).
He did a million other things, many of which were fabricated by the press. Even so, he never stopped doing things his way.
Balotelli's Manchester City career was always going to end this way. The 22-year-old barely produced a meaningful touch since passing the ball to Sergio Aguero for that goal at the end of last season.
Despite the heartfelt protests of Roberto Mancini (via The Guardian), Balotelli's chance to prove himself away from Italy gained less momentum than his Bentley picking up another fine in Manchester city centre (via The Manchester Evening News).
The underlining story isn't such a jovial one. Roberto Mancini publicly supported Balotelli on numerous occasions. He provided opportunity after opportunity for the striker to contribute significantly at the Etihad. When the Milan deal was finalised, the Italian manager reiterated how the pair enjoyed a father-and-son relationship (via The Daily Mail).
Somewhere between the headlines, bust-ups and personal mishaps, Balotelli lost sight of why he was brought to England in the first place. His career was no longer about football. Slapstick entertainment came first—scoring goals came second.
Balotelli now has the chance to put this right. His transfer to Milan is natural and long overdue. Throughout his career, Balotelli has always appeared to be building towards this moment (via ESPN).
When the forward says he "ran to Milan," you're inclined to believe him (via Sky Sports). Unfortunately for City, that marathon came via Manchester. As the next chapter of his enigmatic story begins, Roberto Mancini's men are left wondering what could have been.
Premier League fans should feel the same. Beyond the clown image, ridiculous hairstyles and memorable celebrations, English football should be mourning the loss of one of the game's most talented young players.
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