Manchester City should consider themselves fortunate that AC Milan are one of the few teams – probably the only team, in fairness – to show an interest in Mario Balotelli. It’s not that the player isn’t good enough to play at big club in Europe, or even produce moments of brilliance in City’s quest to retain their Premier League title. But it is an awful lot of baggage to retain unnecessarily.
So why, then, have City reportedly gone out of their way to hike up the price of a player that no one really wants? Milan are offering him an escape route out of England, but instead of thanking their stars that a saviour has materialised out of the mist, the league champions are looking to milk this one for all it’s worth.
If Manchester City were willing to pay £20-plus million for Balotelli when they purchased him from Inter Milan then fine, but it doesn’t mean other clubs should have to pay that much for a player who clearly isn’t worth it.
Balotelli is a young, supposedly elite striker who performed exceptionally well for Italy at Euro 2012. Well, what else? How else can City or the player himself enhance his reputation and advertise him as a striker who warrants another club offering City back their investment as well as interest?
Talent will take you a long way, but it won’t force the giants of European football into a mad scramble for your services if that’s all you can muster. For a player who apparently is worth a fee pushing £30million, where is the guarantee or even hint of 20 goals a season? There’s a rotation policy in Roberto Mancini’s side, but that hasn’t stopped the other three strikers performing when they’re called upon.
Does Mancini even want the player anymore? Up until recently, it seemed as though the manager was determined to create a mini project for himself, one which would see him brush the dust away and reveal Balotelli as the definition of a diamond in the rough. But the striker isn’t the first and he won’t be the last. His mentality seems to suggest that he doesn’t appreciate how precarious his career currently is. He has the big wages and a spot in the Italian national squad, but how long will clubs put up with his behaviour and disrespect? Teams like PSG and others on the continent may have the funds to pick him up, but overwhelming financial backing doesn’t equate to a lack of values and sense.
Financial Fair Play may be starting to take effect, but do clubs like City really fear UEFA and what they may do if finances remain out of place? It’s no problem for the Manchester club to part with Balotelli for a loss, while links to other strikers in Europe gives evidence that City are looking to and are financially capable of replacing or strengthening their forward line.
It depends entirely how you want to view Mario Balotelli. He was once an enigmatic figure who created plenty of headlines, and with it he managed to put together a decent following. For whatever reason, people found entertainment or interest in the actions of a footballer, but not for what he’s actually paid to do.
His actions with fireworks, darts and most recently that hair spells it out. He’s a kid enjoying the high life, but one who has no desire to put his career on course. Manchester City’s owners have always come across as people who want to maintain the high levels of respect for senior figures at the club, and that’s specific to Roberto Mancini. For all the money spent and the trophies that have come along in the past two seasons, Manchester City are still not at the big time, and they know it. They might be the champions of England, but the club continue to grow their brand as well as their image on the pitch.
But with everything the club are trying to achieve, it’s players like Balotelli who throw spanners in the works. He received two red cards last season in the league, both of which came in high-profile games against Arsenal and Tottenham. This season, he has one goal in the league. For all the money he’s currently being paid, it’s just not good enough.
Mancini’s squad may be short of numbers, but that should be put to the side for now. They’re only competing in two competitions for the remainder of the season, and any lack of investment surely won’t force blame to fall at the manager’s door.
AC Milan have come along and presented a get-out clause. The loss for a club like City shouldn’t matter. Their priority should be to move Balotelli on and out of the club.