Mario Balotelli is finally growing up a little bit, and it is paying big dividends on the pitch.
Soccer fans everywhere will benefit from this maturity, as—when focused—the striker can pull off feats on the pitch that seem nearly impossible.
However, he has long been his own worst enemy. Balotelli's amazing talent has been limited by his penchant for getting distracted, or locked up in drama.
This was all on vivid display earlier this year when Manchester City decided to move Balotelli to AC Milan for £19 million. The decision to move Balotelli could not have come lightly, but it became an almost necessity after Balotelli got in a shoving match with City manager Roberto Mancini.
That move was just the latest example of Balotelli letting his emotions get the better of him. It also left him at a crossroads. He could continue to progress in an isolated shell of self-righteousness while denying he was the problem, or get to work on his craft.
Apparently, he has chosen the latter. Since being moved, Balotelli has notched 10 goals in eight matches. That includes a double for Italy as they beat Malta in a World Cup qualifier.
Balotelli is quick to point out that his scintillating play has become possible due to his new relationship with girlfriend, Fanny Neguesha.
The Express' James Dickenson passed along this quote from Balotelli:
She is determined, confident and generous. In a short space of time she found herself in sync with me. I could spend my whole life with someone like this. Thanks to Fanny I have rediscovered the balance that I need in my work.
While I don't doubt the validity of these claims, Balotelli has to give some of the credit to himself as well. Changes like this don't happen unless the changing person is ready for them.
It is easy to forget that Balotelli is just 22 years old. He is supposed to be maturing, and there is no reason to think the strides he's made this year are just a mirage, or the result of someone who is powered by the love of a new relationship.
This all points to a bright future for Balotelli and any fans who enjoy amazing soccer.