Moment of truth for Mario Balotelli

What was destined to happen eventually, at some point in time, did happen in the last couple of days of the 2012/13 January transfer window. After much speculation, AC Milan announced the signing of Mario Balotelli from Manchester City for a reported fee of GBP 20 million.

Mario Balotelli’s love for Milan and his desire to play for the team someday was always public knowledge, even when he was with arch rivals Inter Milan. It wouldn’t be too unfair to call Mario Balotelli an enigma. After all, his arrival in Milan was marked by near riotous scenes!

Blessed with pace and power in tandem with flair and technical ability is a rarity and 22 year old Balotelli should have had the world at his feet after showing the world his capabilities as a teenager with Inter. One need not be a genius to understand the reasons for things not panning out as hoped.

mario balotelli - inter, man city, milan

During his time with both Inter as well as Manchester City, he has made the headlines more often for his off-field antics, attitude problem, unprofessional behaviour, sending offs, lack of discipline, bust ups with squad members (and even the coach!) and not to forget accumulation of parking tickets.

In Mario Balotelli, we are surely witnessing the most colourful character in world football today, so much so that people associate him more with the fireworks in his bathroom that blew up his house than the fireworks he displayed against Manchester United in the FA Cup winning run of 2011 and the double in the 6-1 win, or even an inspirational performance against Germany in the Euro 2012 semi-finals amongst other match winning performances for club and country.

His attitude has shown no signs of maturing during his time with Manchester City. At Inter itself he had developed a reputation of being too childish and difficult to work with. Jose Mourinho described Balotelli as ‘unmanageable’.

At least at Inter he had the excuse of still being a teenager just looking to find his feet. Also, he was racially abused more than once in Italy, most notably the multiple negative incidents with the Juventus fans. Of course, this is surely no justification for his reported lack of effort in training and disrespectful behavior towards his club. The nadir was being seen in an AC Milan jersey and being open about his love for Inter’s local rivals with whom they share a stadium.

It was hoped that a move to City would prove to be a fresh start and would help him realize his undoubted potential. Also, the presence of Roberto Mancini was cause of optimism as the pair supposedly shared a father-son like relationship. It was believed that Mancini would surely be one of the very few people who could talk sense into the volatile player.

In England, he did show frequent glimpses of his potential and was a match winner more than once, but never showed the level of consistency and professionalism expected at the top level. His childish behavior still made the headlines more often than his football.

Especially in the second half of City’s 2011/12 title winning season, Mario picked up a habit of getting sent off. Many of the incidents that led to the sending offs were uncalled for and unnecessary. This certainly irked his manager and mentor Roberto Mancini. Also, his constant fights and bust ups with team mates had a negative influence in the dressing room. The low point was a recent altercation with manager Roberto Mancini in the training ground.

At least in public, Balotelli had the support of his manager, who seemed to be quite tolerant towards his erring striker.  And I dare say, at times the support even seemed unconditional. He has let Mancini down, who was one of the only people to stand by him during his numerous lows. Mancini was even accused of displaying preferential treatment towards his Italian compatriot in terms of taking a relatively casual stance about the player’s attitude.

Mario Balotelli leaves England after an eventful two and a half years. Unfortunately, he would be remembered more for his antics, negative incidents and off-field stories. He was easily the footballer to provide most entertainment and stories for the press during his time in England.

mario balotelli - antics versus manchester united

This move to Milan would be more than simply fulfilling his dream of playing for the Rossoneri. He would have a chance to make a fresh start bearing in mind the lessons learnt from his past experiences. This is a golden opportunity to endear himself to fans in Italy. He is still just 22, which means he does have his best years ahead of him. Super Mario has time on his side to fulfill his potential, but most importantly, it is time he allowed his football to do the talking rather than his attitude, discipline and unwanted antics.

 

 

League Appearances

League Goals

Total Appearances

Total Goals

Inter Milan

2006/07

0

0

0

0

Inter Milan

2007/08

11

3

15

7

Inter Milan

2008/09

22

8

31

10

Inter Milan

2009/10

26

9

40

11

Inter Milan Total

59

20

86

28

Manchester City

2010/11

17

6

28

10

Manchester City

2011/12

23

13

32

17

Manchester City

2012/13

14

1

20

3

Manchester City Total

54

20

80

30

Both Clubs Total

113

20

166

58

He no longer has the excuse of being too young to cope with the demands of top level football. On Milan’s part, it is quite natural that they would expect Balotelli to show more maturity now than he has in his career so far. The player was always enthusiastic about joining them, but they would certainly have other reasons to sign Balotelli. They are hopeful that in El Shaarawy and Balotelli they have two of the best Italian new generation strikers, in addition to another hot prospect – 18 year old Niang. Milan would be keen to build a new and successful era around the pair and other youngsters such as full back De Sciglia.

Now Balotelli has also lost the excuse of adapting to a new league and environment. He took his first few steps as a footballer in Italy and has experience in the Serie A. He has lived in the city of Milan before and even had the San Siro as his team’s home stadium. Balotelli is not expected to take the league by storm immediately, but is surely expected to show more seriousness and professionalism.

It is evident that there is all the talent to become the next lynchpin of the team, similar to the manner in which Ibra became the central piece during his time at Milan. It can even be said that the 2013 could possibly be a make or break year for Mario Balotelli. Enough has been said about his potential. He has got his much sought after dream move and a clean slate with a new set of fans, team mates and management.

It is above time the prodigious talent spotted in his teens comes to the fore along with the increased maturity and sensibility that comes with age. We have now seen enough of irresponsible player. Winning over his new set of fans and team mates would be the biggest challenge of the erring striker, but it could also prove to be the most fruitful step.

The time for excuses is over. Until now, he does have sympathy from some quarters. Both Roberto Mancini as well as Cesare Prandelli have shown admirable patience hoping that one day Balotelli develops into a great player and professional. The time to do the talking on the pitch and also get one back at his critics has arrived. 2013 is the moment of truth for Mario Balotelli.

– By Manu Krishnan.

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