Mario Balotelli: Inter's Enfant Terrible to Arsenal?
According to reports, Arsenal are ready to end Mario Balotelli's tumultuous spell at Inter by offering £20 million for the troubled youngster. It is seemingly the move that would be the perfect solution for all three parties involved, but what of the cost to Italian football, losing one of its brightest prospects? Adamo Digby looks at the dilemma, and offers his own solution.
Mario Balotelli is one of "those" players. He just is.
You know the type. Young, endlessly talented, but completely uncontrollable. Seemingly every country, every generation, throws up at least one.
Italy have already had Antonio Cassano. England had Paul Gascoigne. For France it was Cantona. As easily found on the front pages as the back, able to take your breath away, but not always for the reasons you might expect.
Now, it seems, is crunch time. When even Jose Mourinho appears to have given up, surely that ends the prospect of "Super Mario" ever fulfilling his potential with Inter, right? The Portuguese has even lambasted his player publicly, and more than once.
After his red card in the Champions League tie with Rubin Kazan, Mourinho said Balotelli would "still make the same mistakes in five years." In the press conference after the Serie A game with Roma, the manager was quoted as saying the player's performance was "close to zero."
Despite these regular criticisms, Balotelli has failed to respond in the manner Mourinho would like. Mourinho dropped him from the squad completely last weekend against Fiorentina and shows no desire to recall him.
Into this the Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has stepped, offering a way out for Mourinho, Balotelli, and Inter. "I am keeping an eye out for Balotelli, a player I like very much," said the Frenchman recently. "In my view he can be one of the best."
So, with Wenger's ability to develop young talent, Balotelli's need for playing time, Arsenal's attacking injuries, and Mourinho's patience seemingly expired, the transfer is perfect all round, right?
Inter would lose a player who could be everything they ever hoped. Mario Balotelli has the potential, and the ability, to be the world's best. By simply off-loading the problem they risk destroying their future, and the chance for Italian football to witness one of its own reach that pinnacle.
While Mourinho's view is understandable, you have to recognise the pressure the Inter manager is under. The scudetto is seemingly a minimum requirement, while the Champions League is the ideal. Were he to fail to deliver that prize, he may find himself leaving Serie A the same way he left Chelsea.
Why sell the player to please a man who may be gone himself come the summer?
This desire for instant success is the Inter we all sniggered at throughout the '90s as they made multi-million pound mistake after multi-million pound mistake, never winning trophies.
Selling Balotelli to Arsenal would rank alongside the sales of Bergkamp and Roberto Carlos.
The solution? A loan deal, perhaps six months. Inter have depth in the forward line meaning his temporary loss wouldn't matter too much. Arsenal have Robin Van Persie out long-term, and the delicate Eduardo never seems too far from his next injury. They also appear to be short of money to compete at the top end of the transfer market.
This move would suit all much better. Wenger would get quality cover to his decimated front line for little outlay. Inter would retain ownership of the player, able to bring him back at their discretion. Mourinho would get rid of his problem, creating better harmony in his group. Lastly, football and football fans would be the winner as Balotelli would get a stage on which to showcase his undoubted talent.
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