Mario Balotelli. A surreal personification of the dreams the majority of youngsters play out in their heads on a nightly basis; namely a ‘super-villain-esque’ confidence, an extraordinary footballing ability, and a penchant for believing that the game has no superior.
The 23-year-old former Manchester City hit-man has been linked with Arsenal these last few weeks, with the Metro going as far as to say that Arsene Wenger recently met with the player’s agent to discuss options.
But should the Gunners move for the Machiavellian attacker?
Here are two clips of Balotelli, one of which you will undoubtedly still remember, with the other taken just yesterday at the San Siro.
Balotelli’s sublime winner against Bologna yesterday had me pursing my lips, marveling not only at the sheer beauty of the arc in which the ball traveled, but the unshackled nonchalance of the man himself, before and after.
Having seen the ball speed past him, Mario adopted a cat-like stance; minimal movement, yet with a cold, dead-eye stare at the ball. Sure enough, he was afforded the chance to shine, and with barely a shuffle, he pinged the ball gloriously into the top-right corner of Curci’s goal, sending the Milan fans euphoric.
His personal reaction was another rendition of the practically trademarked routine of showing little or no emotion. Purest box-office entertainment.
Arguably one of the all-time low points in the Italian’s career to date, his marching orders late in the day during the 1-0 defeat to Arsenal left City trailing leaders Manchester United by eight points with only six games left to play.
Manchester City’s death-defying title win with the last kick of the ball that May saved Balotelli arguably even more derision, but at the time, Super Mario had effectively ended all reasonable hope in a maiden Premier League title win for his side.
The then City manager Roberto Mancini had had enough of the eccentric striker, and admitted after that he would ‘probably’ look to offload the player that summer,
“He is not a bad guy and a fantastic player but I’m very sorry for him as he continues to lose his talent and his quality,” Mancini told the BBC in the aftermath,
“I don’t have any words for his behaviour.
“I hope for him he can understand he is in a bad way for his future and I really hope that he can change his behaviour in the future. He will probably not play in the next six games.
“I need to be sure I always have 11 players on the pitch and with Mario this is a big risk.”
The two yellows Balotelli received in quick succession after City fell behind to Mikel Arteta’s goal highlighted his serious lack of discipline, and his slow trudge off the pitch when time was at an absolute premium did nothing to aid his rapidly diminishing reputation at the time,
“Mario made a mistake and I hope for him – not me – that he can change,” Mancini continued after the game,
“He clearly created a big problem but he has also scored important goals for us this season. He needs to change his behaviour if he wants to continue to play. I have seen players like him, who have all this talent, and they are finished in two or three years.
“Mario should change, he must change, and I hope for him that he does.”
Change was on the cards for Balotelli, as he jumped ship to Serie A the following January, and proved to be a quick success for the Rossoneri, helping them to secure a Champions League spot in the second half of the season.
But the old Balotelli still rears his ugly head, as his sending off against Napoli in November proved. Having seen his penalty saved by Pepe Reina, Mario was dismissed after the game during ugly scenes.
“Mario is a great guy, but he must understand that in the world of football he has his responsibility,” his teammate Kaka said soon after the game, “Both with Milan and the Italian national team,”
“He is a model for many people and must understand and better manage something that is so important.”
Despite being the typification of a loose cannon, Balotelli is one of the most lethal strikers on the planet, and if he can be harnessed effectively, he could still be a great success. There is, I feel, with his innate arrogance and stunning self-confidence, a touch of the Thierry Henry in him.
But despite the comparisons, Balotelli remains a unique force in the world of football, past and present, and if he does not come to terms with his responsibilities on and off the pitch, I worry that a future not unlike the Portuguese failure Quaresma could be soon on the cards.
Wenger is a veritable genius with untamed talent however, and with Arsenal in dire need of further attacking reinforcement, perhaps Balotelli is just waiting for the Frenchman to turn him from miscreant to masterpiece.
What do you think? Should Arsenal move for Balotelli? Let me know in the comments below…