Will Tidey - Why the Premier League needs Mario Balotelli
Published: 28 Jul 2011 - 07:00:19
Another week, another ridiculous Mario Balotelli offering to pour over. This time the Manchester City striker gave us a buy-one-get-one-free deal, embarrassing himself with a ridiculous backheel finish, then taking on Roberto Mancini in a pouty shouting match on the touchline.
The predictable media reaction ensued. Balotelli was labelled an unhinged lunatic and City told to offload their liability of a superstar and get on with the serious business of winning Premier League titles.
After all, it wasn't like this was the first time. If you need reminding of his antics these past 12 months, take a read of Eurosport-Yahoo!'s 'A Year in the Life of Mario Balotelli', put together by Sean Fay (a man who's well worth a follow on Twitter by the way).
When you look back at Balotelli's annus ridiculum it's hard to believe it all happened to one man, in one year. There was a car crash, the time he threw darts at youth team players, the time he forgot who Jack Wilshere was, the time he suffered an allergic reaction to grass, the time Mancini threw a suitcase at him, the time he publicly criticised his parents, the time he undermined Wayne Rooney...the list goes on.
This is a player who cost City around £24 million and is being paid to the tune of £100,000/week. No wonder there are those who want Balotelli's last strop at City to be the one that follows the termination of his contract.
But I for one dearly hope he stays put. The Premier League needs its off-kilter mavericks as much as it does its jobbing James Milners - and English football would clearly be a duller place without Balotelli in it. Aside from the darts incident, has he really done anything that harmful to anybody but himself?
He's an entirely different animal, but who's to say the Balotelli story won't end like the Eric Cantona one. Balotelli is clearly a hugely gifted player, and a talent eminantly capable of driving City towards their end goal of dethroning their Manchester neighbours. Like Cantona he has his demons. Like Cantona he sometimes seems to carry the weight of the world on his shoulders.
Whether Mancini is the man to guide him through troubled times, as Sir Alex Ferguson did with Cantona, is the big question here. Mancini has already seen his relationship with another hot-headed striker, Craig Bellamy, disintergrate. Is he really prepared to put a fatherly arm around Balotelli and steer him to greatness? Or will he ultimately ignore him and turn his attention to whoever City's latest multi-million pound plaything is.
For the Premier League's sake, let's hope Mancini achieves the former. Footballers are a mostly dull and predictable bunch these days, and while Balotelli has made his fair share of mistakes, he at least delivers a narrative to keep us enthralled. It's been a story of immaturity and petulance thus far, but redemption is there for the taking if the boy can become a man before time is called on his City career.
With Carlos Tevez possibly on his way out of Eastlands, City fans need a new talisman. Ridiculous as it may seem, Balotelli could yet be that man.
- FOOTBALL.CO.UK BLOGGER:Will Tidey
- Will Tidey writes on sport for CNN, Eurosport-Yahoo! and Bleacher Report, amongst others. His first book, 'Life with Sir Alex', an account of Sir Alex Ferguson's 25-year reign at Manchester United, is set for release in October this year. Pre-order it now at http://tinyurl.com/6xzl62b. And follow Will on Twitter here - www.twitter.com/willtidey
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