Missing you, Mario...
SIMON ASHURST on the enigma that is Mario Balotelli…
Balotelli, Why Always Him?
I don’t know about you, but I hate him with a passion, not only because he cut me up near the Trafford Centre so I nearly had a car crash with him, but also because his attitude on and off the field was so arrogant. The thought of him now is winding me up, especially because I’m on the red side of Manchester. But for some strange reason I can’t help but like him.
Balotelli started his career at Lumezzane, where he made two appearances and scored a grand total of zero goals. He then went to Inter Milan, making 59 appearances and scoring a respectable 20 goals. But where we all really know him from is back in August 2010, when he signed for Manchester City for a tidy £24 million. City boss Roberto Mancini had previously managed Balotelli so he already a good knowledge of how to get the most out of Super Mario.
City? Do I have to?
Scoring 20 goals in 54 appearances for City isn’t outstanding, but two of those goals particularly will always haunt me. As a United fan it’s already hurting me to type this. I’ll never forget that awful Sunday in October 2011 when Balotelli made a bigger name for himself, scoring those two goals as City won 6-1. The first one was a bit of a piss take, then to lift his shirt up over his head to reveal that shirt, how dare he? I don’t want to talk about the second half, we all know what happened. But for a small glimpse of consolation I remind myself of Darren Fletcher’s wonder goal from just outside the box. I genuinely thought the comeback was on, how wrong was I?
But in fairness, he did make the game look so easy from time to time. He was great in the air, his hunger for goals, the temper, how quick he was and his incredible strength. I’m sure we all remember this goal too – see top
far right; how he skipped past Norwich’s defence so easily, hit the bar, and then had the cheek to shoulder the ball into the empty net. I feel so sorry for John Ruddy, I mean look
how gutted he looks.
In 2013, he went to AC Milan for an alright deal of £20m, plus bonuses of course. He needed an amazing car to cause havoc in Milan with, and yet another house to destroy. Fair play to him, though, he helped AC Milan qualify for the Champions League. Balotelli also had a spell at Liverpool – in that time he scored four goals but got himself in a bit of trouble (again) for uploading a dodgy photo on his social media which resulted in a £25K fine, not that it burnt a hole in his pocket or anything. He managed to earn it back in two days, perhaps less – but I won’t get started on money within football again. He now plays for the French side, Nice. He joined them on a free and he’s having a good time out there, scoring freely. Mario also made a bold comment in 2016, and I’m sorry to break this to you Liverpool fans – Mario told the French media that signing for Liverpool was the “worst mistake of my life”.
In the Euros of 2012, Balotelli did something I, along with millions, fully respected. He threatened to walk off the pitch if he suffered any racial abuse whilst playing, which is completely fair enough. Balotelli being Balotelli, he also threatened to kill anybody that had the audacity to throw a banana at him, and nobody did. However, he was accused of
being immature for these comments. Unfortunately, he was a victim of racist abuse from Croatian fans, FIFA stepped in and Croatia were fined € 80,000, which isn’t enough in my opinion. I don’t think he killed anybody, though.
Balotelli finished the tournament as the joint top scorer with three goals as Italy lost 4-0 to Spain in the final. Typically, for a man who loves the big stage, Balotelli scored the winner as Italy beat England in the group stage at the 2014 World Cup, though they, like the Three Lions, failed to qualify for the last 16. And the 26-year-old didn’t make Antonio Conte’s squad for Euro 2016.
Off the Pitch
Now, other than nearly killing me and my Mum in his car that was worth more than my house, he was quite a character off the pitch. Remember that time he thought it was alright to have a firework display in his mansion? A hell of a lot of damage was done and the repairs cost a lot of money too, but did that worry Super Mario? Not really. He also managed to crash his car five days after joining City. Another incident occurred when the police wanted a quick chat with him - they found that he was carrying £5K around with him in his glovebox. When they questioned why, his reply was “Because I’m rich”, which he was and still is. He certainly knew how to spend his money. I’ll never forget his ‘I’m not too fussed’ attitude. It was admirable in some ways to piss off everyone other than City fans in two years. He also had a dig at the music scene, Tinchy Stryder wrote a song about him, nah I don’t know it either, luckily. How he depicted himself off the pitch was drastic. I hate to compare but at least he was funny. I see traits of Pogba in Balotelli, but Balotelli made more of an impact I reckon. Anyway, Balotelli is, and always will be, an alternative legend in the Premier League. Cheers, Balotelli, you guilty pleasure, you.
Nice one: Mario is in France now
Getting shirty: Mario Balotelli celebrates the opener in Man City’s 6-1 win at Man Utd in October 2011
Italian job: Scoring against Germany in Euro 2012
So casual: Balotelli nets against Norwich