Missing you, Mario...

SI­MON ASHURST on the enigma that is Mario Balotelli…

Late Tackle Football Magazine - - BLAST FROM THE PAST -

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.

Post City

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”.

In­ter­na­tional Ca­reer

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

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