Mario Balotelli's Career so Far in 20 Pictures
Mercurial, polarizing, provocative. Everyone who has followed Mario Balotelli throughout his tumultuous career has an opinion about him.
After all, the Italian striker has made more headlines because of his actions off the pitch than what he has actually done on it.
Only recently, the larger-than-life sports figure known as Super Mario made the TIME Magazine Top 100 list of most influential people worldwide. For all of his petulant faults, the fact that Balotelli has also become an outspoken opponent of racism in the game is noteworthy and shouldn't be forgotten when one takes a look at a summary of his career.
Without further ado, here are 20 pictures of Mario Balotelli through the years that portray his roller-coaster career.
The Beginning of Balotelli
Friends or Foes?
Now teammates at Milan, Mario Balotelli and Philippe Mexes had a few scuffles back in the day.
A Turbulent Relationship
The turbulent relationship between Mario Balotelli and Inter coach Jose Mourinho has been well documented.
Samuel Eto'o tries to calm Balotelli down during a Serie A match against Udinese.
Balotelli picked up 14 yellow cards during his last two seasons with the Nerazzurri.
Balotelli celebrates triumph with Inter teammates Sulley Muntari (middle) and Davide Santon (left).
2009: Sweden vs. Italy: U21 Championships
Even early in his career, Mario Balotelli was accustomed to unnecessary red cards.
A Match Made in Heaven
Mario Balotelli sits on the Manchester City bench. He was basically shunned from the club during his last few months with them, as a few arguments with coach Roberto Mancini created a noticeable rift.
A Disappointing Outing
Balotelli is subbed off for Samir Nasri by coach Roberto Mancini during a Manchester City domestic game. Only 33 out of the 54 matches he played for City were from the first minute.
Mario Balotelli celebrates with teammates after winning the 2012 Premier League title. He provided the pivotal assist which set up Kun Aguero's goal in the dying seconds.
A Divine Intervention?
In one of his most docile moments on this gallery, a well-groomed Mario Balotelli meets Pope Francis for a hopeful spiritual awakening.
A Meme-Tastic Celebration
Balotelli's signature celebration after scoring a brace against Germany in the Euro 2012 competition. Italy would ultimately lose in the final against Spain.
Here's a comedic collection of all the various memes that were made from this image.
Balotelli shares a moment with his proud mum at the Euro 2012 competition.
Nothing but Net
Balotelli's headed goal against Germany in the 2012 Euro semifinal. This was arguably his most influential game as a professional footballer.
An Italian Love Affair
Mario Balotelli is spotted at the San Siro with his girlfriend Fanny Neguesha.
A Constant Target
Unfortunately, opposing defenders have put a bulls-eye on Balotelli every time they face him. They know that the right foul could spark a punishable outburst.
A Formidable Duo
Balotelli shows off some alternative tricks during an Italian national team practice with teammate Stephan El Shaarawy.
Balotelli Celebrates a Goal Against Udinese.
Balotelli celebrates a great goal for Milan against Udinese. As it stands, he has 15-goals in 20-appearances with the Rossoneri.
Perfect No More
Balotelli walks away visibly frustrated against Napoli after his first professional miss from the penalty spot at the hands of Pepe Reina.
Mario Balotelli is all smiles with the Italian national team. Coach Cesare Prandelli made it clear since his appointment that he'd support that maligned superstar.
Balotelli continues to lead the Azzurri frontline, and he'll spearhead his nation into the 2014 World Cup in hopes for the most important silverware of all.