From the publishers of THE HINDU

VOL.34 :: NO.25 :: Jun. 23, 2011

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FOOTBALL

Bundle of talent, but…

Ever since Mario Balotelli joined Manchester City in the summer of 2010, he has been involved with several controversial incidents that have threatened his reputation as one of the brightest young prospects in world football, writes James Jones.

How do you solve a problem like Mario Balotelli? Jose Mourinho couldn't but Roberto Mancini thinks he can. It could be argued that Balotelli himself doesn't even know.

Ever since the Italian joined Manchester City in the summer of 2010, he has been involved with several controversial incidents that have threatened his reputation as one of the brightest young prospects in world football.

Balotelli began his career at Lumezzane where he represented the first team twice in the six years he spent learning his trade as a youth player. After an unsuccessful trial at Spanish giant Barcelona, Mancini noticed his potential and took him to Inter Milan. It was at the San Siro that Balotelli was to make a name for himself, both for his talent and his behavioural problems.

Mancini was to leave Inter to join English Premier League side Manchester City and was replaced by Jose Mourinho. It soon became clear that Balotelli and Mourinho did not quite see eye-to-eye and their rift escalated when Balotelli was suspended from the first team in January 2009.

Mourinho claimed Balotelli did not try hard enough in training and said: “As far as I'm concerned, a young boy like him cannot afford himself to train less than Figo, Cordoba and Zanetti.”

The Italian landed himself in more trouble throughout his Inter Milan career, most notably when he was seen sporting an AC Milan shirt on an Italian TV show.

Despite his clear reluctance to keep his head down and focus on his football rather than cause trouble, Balotelli was the subject of serious racial abuse during his time in Italy and it was suggested that such treatment contributed to his behaviour.

His Inter career came to an end when his own team-mates publicly criticised his behaviour and in the summer of 2010, Mancini took Balotelli to Manchester City for around GBP24 million.

Mancini believed he could get the best out a player tipped to be one of the best in the world, and Balotelli made an instant impact by scoring on his City debut in a 1-0 win against FC Timisoara in the Europa League.

Unfortunately he then spent two months on the sidelines with a knee injury. On his return to the side he showed his potential with some match-winning performances but his temperament was called into question again when he was sent off in City's 2-0 win over West Brom after scoring both goals.

He began to earn the same reputation in England as he did in Italy and, throughout his first season at City, several incidents both on and off the field brought his maturity into question.

He was famously caught throwing darts at a youth-team player while at training as well as having bust-ups with team-mates. However, regardless of his petulant attitude on the pitch and at training, Balotelli has been seen to be very generous when on the streets of Manchester.

It was reported in April that, after winning GBP25,000 in a casino, he gave GBP1,000 to a homeless man who was hanging around outside. He was also reported to have helped a young boy who had been playing truant due to bullies at his school. The Italian marched him back to school and demanded the culprits were punished.

By the end of his first year in England the striker had reportedly notched up a total of GBP300,000 in club fines, around GBP10,000 in parking tickets and had his car impounded a shocking 27 times.

However, his man-of-the-match display in Manchester City's 1-0 win over Stoke in the FA Cup final in May prompted several of his peers to acknowledge Balotelli's progress since his transfer.

Not many clubs would have put up with such a handful of a player, especially after Mourinho declared he was ‘unmanageable', but City's faith in the youngster could well be rewarded in the future.

His time playing for Jose Mourinho at Inter Milan was short and not so sweet. The Portuguese coach didn't think there was anything super about Mario.

He is still single and was in the news again when he reportedly handed his phone to an attractive woman so she could give him her number in a busy restaurant.

His white Maserati is a familiar sight to Manchester's traffic wardens. He also made the headlines when he crashed an Audi R8 on his way to training.

FACTFILE

Name: Mario Balotelli

Position: Striker

Club: Manchester City

D.O.B: 12/08/1990

Italy caps: 2

Italy goals: 0

Italy debut: v Ivory Coast, 2010

Moment to remember

Scoring on his Manchester City debut in the Europa League.

Moment to forget

Was widely ridiculed last season after television cameras focussed on his failure to put on his training bib during a pre-match warm-up.

© PA Sport, 2011, All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, re-written, re-distributed or commercially exploited. Sportstar is not responsible for any inaccuracy in the material.



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