The FA’s decision to charge Mario Balotelli with violent conduct for stamping on Scott Parker’s head added yet another blot on the Manchester City striker’s copy book. In what was one of the most even and entertaining games of the season, the Italian should have been grabbing the headlines for scoring a last minute penalty to snatch a game that his side could have lost just moments earlier but rather than the press heaping praise upon Super Mario, they are again talking about him with a negative air.
His goal has maintained the Citizens breathing space at the top of the league and the manner of his sides victory is another sign that they will win the title but more important is the way that Balotelli walked up to the penalty and stroked it home as if there was no pressure on him and no cameras pointing in his direction. Under the sort of pressure that very few of us can even begin to imagine he showed a level of composure that far more experienced players can only wish to have in that situation and highlights how damaging his misdemeanours are.
He is one of the most naturally gifted footballers to have ever graced the Premier League and has shown in his 18 months in England that he is unplayable when in the groove. In the Manchester derby he ran the United defence ragged, scoring two goals and breaking through the defence again only to be hauled down by Jonny Evans. He also averages just 82 minutes between goals so far this campaign, compared to 97 minutes for Demba Ba and 100 for Robin van Persie. His play is instinctive and effortless and he is capable of creating something magical from almost any situation. All of this shows there is no doubt that the 21-year-old has the skill to be fighting it out with Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo for the Ballon D’Or in the years to come but like any genius, there is a flaw.
Despite the composure he showed from the penalty spot, the same can’t be said all the time. Although it looks horrific and intentional in the replays, we will never know whether he put his boot into Scott Parker’s head on purpose or not, but it is another contentious chapter in his career. To add to Sunday’s incident he has been sent off for directing a kung-fu style kick at a Dynamo Kiev player and been substituted for trying an audacious backheel in front of goal during a friendly match, while off the pitch he has piled up £10,000 in parking fines, been caught in a well-known Italian mafia spot, worn a Milan shirt when he was at Inter, thrown a dart a youth team player and set off fireworks in his own bathroom among other erratic antics. It seems that for every flash of brilliance he has to do something equally crazy to balance it out.
All of these things show that Super Mario is completely bonkers but without this eccentricity he wouldn’t be the player he is. His enthusiastic and instinctive style of play mirrors his everyday life where he does exactly what he wants regardless of whether it is a good or bad idea and while it must be fun for him and offers everybody else a good laugh these mad moments are tarnishing his career.
When his boots are eventually hung up people are more likely to look back at Balotelli’s career and remember him for his barmy behaviour than his awesome ability which is a terrible shame. It is amazing to think that a rare talent such as his could be so easily forgotten but if he has done this many crazy things at the age of 21, just imagine how many more there could be by the time he retires.
Perhaps what is more disappointing is it will only be the bad things that will come to mind. While a lot of the things that the Italian has done are daft he has also done a number of good things that don’t get brought up when he is talked about. After winning £25,000 in a casino on his first night in Manchester he decided to hand £1,000 of it to a tramp, not something you’d see many Premier League players doing. Since then he’s paid for the fuel of other motorists at a petrol station, bought everybody a drink at his local pub, confronted a school bully for a young fan and allegedly walked into a library at Manchester University and offered to pay the students library fees before stuffing £200 into a charity tin. These actions are not part of the character that people like to paint but it would be appalling if this isn’t acknowledged.
The longer Super Mario’s keeps up his wacky antics the more chance there is that his career will be overshadowed by them. The stamping incident will continue to fill the air-time and newspaper pages for the next few days but before long there will be another story about him, whether it’s good or bad. He is an impulsive genius and it is well worth buying a ticket just to see him. I just hope that the back pages stop being filled by the Crazy Chronicles of Balotelli and are replaced with match reports lauding the striker because if they do, the Premier League will once again host the best player in the world.
Do you think Balotelli’s barmy stories are overshadowing his ability? Tell me on Twitter @jrobbins1991.
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