Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini has something every other manager in world club football would give a right arm for; a blank cheque book. The City manager has vast financial backing and the ability to throw millions of pounds at international footballers around the globe to try and attract them to ply their trade at Eastlands. The Italian has selected countryman Mario Balotelli as one of the players he believes can fire City into Champions League qualification contention and lead the club into a new era. However, despite being a talented and physically able forward, the ex-Inter striker’s appeal is jaded by the fact that he has a terrible attitude and temperament, something that a leading club paying massive wages shouldn’t need to endure. Despite showing glimpses of excellence on the pitch in his first season in England, ‘Super Mario’ is often distant, lazy and disrespectful, and if the striker’s attitude doesn’t change Mancini would be best advised sending Balotelli back to Italy.
Balotelli signed for City back in August 2010 for a fee of £24 million from Italian Champions Inter Milan. In his time with the Nerazzuri, the forward scored 20 goals in 59 appearances and helped his club to a domestic and European double. With all eyes on the 20 year old striker in his move to England, Balotelli started brightly showing good touches and technique with the ball at his feet, a strong physical side to his play with good pace and an ability to compete in the air, and an eye for goal. This campaign the Italian has netted 10 times in 21 games for his new employers and has started to feature internationally for Italy, making his but against the Ivory Coast. With the additional accompaniment of Carlos Tevez, Edin Dzeko and David Silva, City have an exciting and threatening front line.
However, despite Baloteli’s many footballing talents, which are not in doubt, the youngster comes with comprehensive baggage and his attitude on and off the pitch leaves much to be desired. What ever happened to playing the game with a smile on your face? Balotelli constantly looks angry and unhappy, something a young man of his abilities really should not. This negative attitude is of no use to anyone; fellow players can (and have) become annoyed with his apparent disinterest and unapproachable outlook, whilst fans will read this as a sign the player’s heart is not with the club, and his efforts will not be part of the greater good for Manchester City.
Balotelli’s discipline must also be called into question, with his annoyance at events on the pitch turning into petulance on occasion, which is costing Manchester City. Never more was this exemplified than in his club’s exit from the Europa League, with the striker’s dismissal on 36 minutes against Dynamo Kiev for a ludicrous challenge turning City’s uphill struggle into an eventually unsuccessful one. Balotelli’s energies need to be channeled in a more productive fashion, and if Roberto Mancini wasn’t furious with his striker after the red card then he should have been. Balotelli attracts controversy, does not shy away from confrontations and generally acts in an unprofessional and unsporting manner at times, which again have no place at The City of Manchester Stadium or in English football.
His comments in the media off the pitch at times are baffling and counter productive, with the claims that he is a better player than Lionel Messi, and that he had never heard of Jack Wilshere both being spouted this season, and really not doing anything of note apart from building his already colossal ego. Few, if any, are as good as or better than Messi and of the list of potential candidates Mario Balotelli would be a long way down any footballing experts lists. Also, if you are going to move to England to play your club football then insulting one of the country’s brightest talents and arguably best players is not any way to endear yourself to fans across the land. Instead it alienates him, and fans and players alike will be out to dent his confidence and do anything they can to make him lose his cool.
Balotelli reminds me of another ex-City forward, Nicolas Anelka. The Frenchman has not been without controversy in his career (far from it), and in his younger days had a poor attitude and a big ego. As he has matured Anelka has become more of a team player and put behind him the petulant and arrogant nature that stifled his career, and he is a better player for it. Balotelli must do the same and commit himself to improving as a player and being an asset to his team; if he doesn’t he will soon find that managers and fans, like they did with young Anelka, will get bored of his antics and he will be transferred.
Rumours continue surrounding Balotelli’s future, with a summer move to Milan apparently on the cards. With City’s ambitions clear, they need to unite their relatively new and foreign squad into a team that plays for each other and for the club. For Mario Balotelli to be a part of this process he must clean up his act, get rid of whatever chip he has on his shoulder and try to enjoy his football. If he doesn’t remedy some of the childish and selfish traits that have been showcased in his first season at Eastlands, Mancini would be best advised to be rid of the troubled youngster, as despite his talents, he is a hinderance to City moving forward as a football club.