Why always me? Well Mario, there’s only one real answer to that. Because you are bonkers. Literally mad. However, my opinion of Super Mario is beginning to change rapidly. Before, he seemed like a petulant child, throwing tantrums John McEnroe would be proud of. Yet some of his recent antics have begun to swing opinion on the controversial Italian in his favour. Rather than stroppy or moody, his personality now appears colourful or even charismatic. City fans are certainly warming to him after the victory over Manchester United. Back to the start though, and his relationship with first club Inter Milan. Let’s just say him and Jose Mourinho didn’t exactly see eye to eye. With a pair of such over-inflated egos, I’m surprised the two of them could even fit in the same room. Given the racist nature of the Italian fans, maybe winning over the public was an impossible task as well, certainly the Juventus took a keen dislike to their rivals front-man. Balotelli made the task even harder to conquer with his fiery nature. Whether the interview conducted in the shirt of main rivals AC Milan was tongue-in-cheek or just downright stupid is anyone’s guess, but it certainly didn’t help his cause and the San Siro cauldron erupted into a blistering volcano of torrents of abuse directed his way. This escalated after his substitution in the Champions League Semi-Final against Barcelona after a poor performance, whereupon he threw his shirt onto the ground. Enraged Inter supporters then attempted to physically assault him, suggesting Balotelli’s career at Inter had run its course.
So Mario left Italy. And his old mentor, the one who picked him up and mentored on the path to stardom decided he was suitable for his wads of Middle Eastern cash. Roberto Mancini forked out a cool £24 million to bring the then-20 year old to Manchester, where in all honestly, he made a poor start. Fans of City and other clubs alike tired quickly of his temperamental behaviour, that involved throwing wobblies with any players or referees that came across his path. His disciplinary record also made nasty reading, picking up numerous yellow cards and two red ones, one against Dynamo Kiev in the Europa League for producing a Wayne Rooney esq swipe at his opponent. Even Mancini felt the brunt of it, staking his reputation on his ability to handle his prize possession, a claim that looked mightily bold at the time. There have been signs however of his undoubtedly prodigious talent, bagging a hat-trick at Villa in December, whilst picking up man-of-the-match in the FA Cup Final, helping City secure their first trophy in 35 years. And this season Balotelli has set off like a rocket. As Carlos Tevez’s star falls faster than Cristiano Ronaldo in the penalty area, Mario appears to be the new hero, impressing in the incredible 6-1 drubbing of United, whilst also bagging 6 goals in his first 5 games.
So that’s playing side of things covered, but let’s be honest, the new-found cult hero status hasn’t appeared courtesy of his on-field performances. Let’s just say an autobiography of his life will make fantastic reading. Some incidents have been less than savoury though, take his showboating back-heel against LA Galaxy in the summer, his slating of the City of Manchester in the summer or the more sinister Mafia links that appeared following a trip to Sicily. But other wildly eccentric activities have been far more amusing. And the terraces at the Etihad Stadium have quickly picked up on it with their inventive new song.
Oh Balotelli he’s a striker…
He’s good at darts
He’s allergic to grass but when he plays/ He’s fucking class.
Drives round Moss Side/ with a wallet full of cash
Can’t put on his vest/ But when he does he is the best
Goes into schools/ Tells teachers all the rules
Sets fire to his gaff/ With rockets from his bath
Doesn’t give a fuck/ Cos he did it for a laugh
Runs back to his house/ For a suitcase full of cash
Oh Balotelli …
Now to explain those lyrics.
Line 1 – Mario throws a dart at a youth team player from the third floor of City’s training ground. For a prank. As you do.
Line 2 – A poor performance against Dynamo Kiev led to his substitution with a ‘swollen face.’ He later announced an allergy to grass, something that clearly hadn’t surfaced despite his other hundreds of appearances on a football field.
Line 3 – After a car crash early in his Blues career, police found Balotelli carrying £5000 cash in his pocket. His reason? “Because I am rich.” Rumours he was seen in a Manchester nightclub throwing £20 notes at ‘poor in comparison’ Phil Jones and Tom Cleverley are as yet unconfirmed. Other money related incidents involve winning £25,000 at a casino before promptly handing a tramp a casual grand. Generous guy.
Line 4 – The bib incident. The one that had everyone questioning whether Mario was just a little bit special. And not in a talented way. Either way, our maverick Italian couldn’t tell the difference between the hole for his head or his arms.
Line 5 – The story that began to show Balotelli in a more favourable light. Enquiring as to why a young autograph hunter was truanting from school, he found the boy was the object of a group of school bullies. Upon hearing this story, Mario jumped in his Maserati and sped off to arrange a meeting between the boys and the headmistress, thus resolving the issue. His Nobel Peace Prize is in the post.
Line 6 – His most recent antic. At 1am before the big clash with Manchester United, the fire crew were called to ‘a substantial fire’ on the first floor of Balotelli’s house. Apparently, he and four friends were practising for Bonfire Night, setting off fireworks out of his bathroom window. The night went all Guy Fawkes however, as the bathroom towels caught fire, causing a blaze. Mario’s excuse? “It was my friend.” It was ok though, as he made amends by supporting a local firework safety scheme though.
So there you go. Six reasons why Balotelli is fast becoming one of football’s quirky characters in the style of Best, Gascoigne or Cantona. Both in ability and in lunacy. But while serious allegations of racism and other unsavoury incidents continue to hamper our game, football needs people like Super Mario to keep a smile on our faces. Let’s pray it always continues to be him.