Mario Balotelli: Manchester City's Troubled Stiker Is a "Lovely Lad"

James Walker@@JamesWalker90Analyst IApril 1, 2011

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 28:  Mario Balotelli of Manchester City shows three fingers as he celebrates after scoring his third goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Aston Villa at the City of Manchester Stadium on December 28, 2010 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Manchester City’s seemingly outbound winger Shaun Wright Phillips has jumped in defence of his controversial teammate Mario Balotelli, telling the BBC that the troubled Italian is “deep down, a lovely lad.”

To many Manchester City fans, Balotelli has been nothing short of a burden this season. A flurry of disappointing performances on the field, combined with his bizarre off-field antics have left many City fans praying that the twenty-year-old will make an early exit.

Balotelli has been the bane of his own misfortune this season. His talent is obvious–despite being plagued by injuries, he is City’s second highest scorer, having netted ten goals. Despite his goal scoring prowess, it is his indiscipline that is all the more impressive, as the young Italian has collected nine yellow cards and two reds in fifteen starts for the Citizens.

Despite his topsy-turvy form, it is his eccentricity and arrogance that has gained him more attention since his arrival at Eastlands. When he arrived in England, he was pulled over while driving. Before being questioned why he had $8500 cash in his car, his response was “because I’m rich.”

His arrogant attitude attracted further headlines when he won the “Golden Boy” award, likening his skill to Lionel Messi’s and claiming he did not know who Jack Wilshere was but that, “I can show him the Golden Boy trophy and remind him that I won it” when City next played Arsenal.

His eccentricity has also filled the back pages. In October 2010, he attracted mockery from the global press by driving into a women’s prison to see what it looked like. It is perhaps his attitude and seemingly violent inclinations, however, that will cause the most concerns for teammates and fans alike.

It has recently been reported that Balotelli has had a training ground bust-up with teammate Jerome Boateng and, more worryingly, considered it humorous to throw darts from a window at a Man City youth player. In less than a full season, he has caused a big enough stir to write a short biography, so he surely cannot be a good presence in the dressing room, right?

Shaun Wright Phillips has jumped in defence of his troublesome team mate commenting that “he is just someone you have to get used to.”

 “When he realises it he will start buying into the English way and the way we do things because deep down he is a lovely lad to be honest, he just has, at the moment, strange ways, that will naturally change when he grows up,” said the England winger.

“He does realise when he has done something wrong and he does blame himself for situations and the fact that he does this that and acknowledges it shows you that he can grow up and he is not turning his back if he has done something wrong.”

Wright Phillips even suggested that his presence in the dressing room is not as detrimental as many assume. “We always help him, we play pranks on him from time to time just to bring him into the English spirit and he is really getting used to it.”

It is not the first time a team mate has jumped in defence of Balotelli. Veteran midfielder Patrick Viera, who has played alongside Mario for both City and Inter Milan, commented that “I can tell you he is a lovely lad. I really like him as a person and I will do my best to help him because this club needs his talent.” He added “Mario is misunderstood. He is not a bad guy. He loves football.”

Mario Balotelli is clearly a talented player. If he can curb his bad behaviour, he will undoubtedly be one of the leading strikers in the world. At the same time, he is twenty. Granted, he is young and he has had a tough life, but now is the time for him to get his head down and focus on playing football.