This is likely to be a controversial issue, but with Mario Balotelli how could you expect anything else? The departure of the Italian to AC Milan sees the Premier League now void of one of its most interesting characters.
Balotelli arrived at Manchester City in the summer of 2010 for a fee of £24 million. Although only 19 at the time, the striker came with a checkered reputation, with his former manager Jose Mourinho describing him as “unmanageable.”
Within his first month in Manchester, the Italian gave City fans a taste of what was to come – and not with his football. After the police were called to a car crash involving Balotelli, they found he had £5000 cash in his back pocket. Reportedly when asked why he had this much money on him, the striker replied:
Because I am rich.”
This was not the last of Balotelli’s media gems, which became a regular source of tabloid entertainment. In October 2011, it was reported that fire crews were called to the then 21-year-old’s house, after the bathroom had caught fire when he and his friends set off fireworks inside.
The incident occurred the day before the Manchester derby at Old Trafford, when Balotelli got his name in the papers for the right reasons. City beat bitter rivals United 6-1, with the Red Devils suffering their worst home defeat since 1955. Balotelli scored twice and impressed many critics, whilst also revealing his now infamous “why always me?” t-shirt.
The Italian went on to score 19 goals in 40 appearances in 2011/12, as well as providing the assist for Sergio Aguero’s title-winning goal against QPR, in the final game of the season.
He then proceeded to star at Euro 2012 with Italy, scoring three goals on the way to the final – his most impressive performance coming against Germany in the semi-finals, when he scored a brace.
But Balotelli’s form on the pitch was not always so good. He received 4 red cards during his two-and-a-half years at Eastlands and was often criticised for not putting in enough effort.
It seemed the Italian’s time at Manchester City was coming to an end earlier this month, when it was reported Balotelli and Roberto Mancini had a training ground fight. After a late lunge on Scott Sinclair, the striker was ordered off the pitch by his manager and when he refused, an argument ensued between the pair.
Yet despite the managerial headache Balotelli clearly caused Mancini, there has been no one quite so colourful in the English game since Mourinho. Charm and charismatic arrogance is cheekily admired by football fans, but unfortunately for Balotelli, that has to be coupled with good performances on the pitch – something he did not always provide.
Mario Balotelli was, at times, a PR disaster for Manchester City. But one thing you could never describe him as is boring. The British media will certainly be disappointed to see the striker depart to Milan, but I suspect so will a large number of fans – and not only those that support City.