We've all been to a wedding where we've played THAT guessing game. Six months? A year? Two years maximum? How long, exactly, before the happy couple is filing for divorce?
It is hard to avoid similar feelings towards the potential deal between Manchester City and Mario Balotelli. They could be great for one another, of course. But, on the other hand, it certainly has the potential to end in disaster.
You can easily see the attraction of the Premiership club. Rich, ambitious, and keen to become a major force in Europe. If wealth and power have the ability to seduce, they must surely have their Italian target swooning.
Super Mario, too, has a fair degree of pulling-power. Young, talented, and with his playing potential positively bursting at the seams—he is the brightest and most controversial figure of his Serie A generation. It would certainly be a bit of a coup to secure his services.
So why this feeling that their relationship would always be as precarious as the profession of tightrope-walker?
The answer lies with both the player and his potential destination. The Eastlands club is spending big to achieve results and that is always fraught with danger. It works out fine if you cruise to the top of the table, but anything else is viewed as failure.
The risk for Balotelli is that he could become a scapegoat if he fails to produce breathtaking results. Goals, assists, and stellar performances would be required for his pricetag. Otherwise, he would be viewed as a flop.
There is also the danger that his fate could be intertwined with the manager who wants him at the club. How many players have been left high and dry when the man who signed them is shown the door? Nobody seriously thinks Roberto Mancini will have a long tenure at City if he does not deliver results pretty quickly.
The EPL outfit, too, is taking a gamble. Balotelli's potential is enormous but that comes in a pretty incendiary package. The young striker mixes brilliance and petulance in equal measure and often finds a shortcut to controversy. How that will go down in England remains to be seen.
Added to this intriguing cocktail is the Inter Milan forward's agent Mino Raiola. He is a man who sends many viewers rushing for the OFF button every time he appears on television. With him stirring things up, you fear for any chances of this being a long-term relationship.
Outsiders, too, will probably be rubbing their hands with glee. How happy would it make Manchester City's league rivals to see them spend a huge sum of money on an expensive failure? And many anti-Inter fans would happily see Balotelli flop—they think he's a little too big for his boots.
However, the signing could yet be the making of the player. He is Italy's first black potential footballing superstar and that has brought some unwanted baggage. He is regularly taunted and jeered around the country.
Opposition supporters claim they are simply picking on one of Inter's most talented individuals. But the suspicion of downright racism is hard to avoid.
Balotelli could clear his head by coming to England and getting away from that kind of treatment. With a focus on footballing matters alone, there is little doubt he has the ability to become a global sensation. And that would benefit both the player and Manchester City, no matter how long their relationship may last.
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