Thanks for the memories, Mario

So, Mario Balotelli is no longer a Manchester City player. Since his arrival in England in August 2010 ‘Super Mario’ has become a cult figure, displaying with aplomb all the attributes required to enable a modern day footballer to acquire such a tag. Now, I’ve been a City fan since becoming a Junior Blue in 1973, so have been watching with great interest the media infatuation with the now AC Milan player. I guess I’d better have a reason for writing this particular blog, other than it just being topical and about Manchester City, so let’s make it about this: Am I glad that Mario Balotelli is no longer a Manchester City player?

Clearly there are arguments to back up a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. I’ll start with why I’d rather he were still a Blue (apart from the fact that Michelle loves him). Well, he’s an extremely, skilful, talented footballer. He’s played for Inter Milan and Italy as well as City and now AC Milan; you don’t do that unless you have incredible ability, and Mario’s talent was unquestionable. He scored 17 goals in 32 appearances last season, he has never, and will never miss a penalty and he set up Aguero’s goal that won us the Premier League in the final minute of last season. At he rate he’s progressing, prior to this season at least, has the potential to be one of the best players in the world.

Mario Balotelli of Manchester City celebrates scoring the opening goal of the game with his team-mates and a personal message on his shirt

Off the pitch he was an extremely likeable guy. He was a tabloid sensation, with weekly headlines offering wild tales of his public affairs, mishaps and misdemeanours. Almost all were untrue, but he brought worldwide focus to the football club as much for his extrovert personality as he did for his footballing ability. He may have frustrated teammates and fans with his frequent acts of petulance, but he was clearly loved by those same people in the dressing room, on the training pitch (okay, maybe not Mancini) and in public. He made headlines and he sold shirts.

I simply wanted him to succeed, to prove his critics wrong and ‘mature’ into the world-class player he has the potential to become. He was born in Sicily and christened Mario Barwuah, but quickly developed life-threatening complications with his intestines. Mainly due to the financial restraints of his parents, he was fostered by the Balotellis at the age of 3. His story is one of hope, spirit and endurance and whilst Premier League football continues to be riddled with racism (which Balotelli has often been a victim of), cheating, corruption, money-grabbing agents, and verbal abuse, Balotelli was a constant ray of hope and light. If only more players had the balls to say this to a Sun reporter…

So, if he’s such a lovely fella and quality footballer, why would I be happy he’s no longer a City player? Well, is he really that good? I’ve said he has the potential to be one of the best players in the world. Potential counts for nothing. This season his form and progression seem to have taken a step backwards and unlike Aguero and Tevez, Balotelli cannot yet be truly described as world class. On current form and ability he was our fourth best striker. That would not be a reason to not want him in the City squad were it not for his undoubted ability to be disruptive, disrespectful, petulant and on far too many occasions a liability on the football pitch.

Manchester City are Premier League Champions, and clearly looking to become one of the best teams in Europe. Listen to any decent, experienced player or manager and one thing that is heard constantly heard is the importance of team spirit; of the whole squad playing for each other, not for themselves. Well, I’ve already said that Balotelli’s talent was unquestionable, but two things that were always in doubt were his commitment and his temperament. Three red cards during his short time at City as well as many other acts of selfish naivety were not the behaviour of a truly world class player, and this was the one area of Balotelli’s game which Macini thought he could improve, but couldn’t.

Mario+Balotelli+training+ground+bust-up+1

There was always the feeling that while Balotelli could win you a game, he could potentially lose it as well. For all the skill and brilliance he showed, there was also his want to sulk and throw his toys out of his gold-plated pram. Even the most talented player in the world instantly loses that title if his attitude is not James Milner-esque. City, in their attempt to become one of the best teams in Europe simply cannot afford to carry such an ego. I loved watching Mario Balotelli, and I’m glad he played for City when he did, but the fact is I’d rather play James Milner week in week out than see Balotelli on the verge of a moment’s madness that could cost us the game. I’m sad to see him go, but I’m glad he has.

Thanks for the memories, Mario…

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