Article by Richard
When Mario Balotelli was subbed off against Dynamo Kiev, after apparently having an allergic reaction to the grass over there it summed up his time at Manchester City: strange.
He was late to surface from the tunnel after half time, and when it was announced that he was missing I initially thought “here we go again”. His short time at City has been anything but uneventful. He scored on his debut and then got injured in the same game, which is poignant as Balotelli’s lows have outshone his highs so far. After his layoff he came back against West Brom, scored two, but was then sent off, so there is a recurring theme here.
When Balotelli signed for City, it provoked a feeling from me not felt during the reign of Sheik Mansour, and it was that we were signing an unknown entity. Most of Mark Hughes’ signings coupled with the ones Mancini had already made were all players I was quite familiar with. Yet Balotelli’s signing was similar to the players Sven Goran Eriksson had brought in; I’d heard good things about them but that was about it. So it was exciting that City would seemingly gamble on a player whose quality wasn’t fully known.
The opinion in Italy and of the media over here was that Mario had ‘undoubted quality’. This phrase is used in regards to him as much as his petulance is. Yet how can someone who was played only 70 professional games have ‘undoubted quality’? What Balotelli really has, is potential, he has the ability to turn this potential into quality but the attitude to combust at any moment.
He has of course shown signs of great promise, when he applies himself, such as his hat-trick against Aston Villa, yet other performances leave much to the imagination, and at times his desire to give his all for the City shirt must come into question.
It can’t be easy for a man who has cited homesickness early on in his time at City, yet he has such a hostile relationship with the country of his birth. Being booed by fans as he made his international debut must have hurt him. Yet his exterior would suggest that he is unfazed by it all, and his ability to seemingly shrug off the racist abuse hurled at him from Italian fans is commendable.
Despite all this the fact remains that a question mark hangs over Balotelli’s head. Will he fulfil his potential and combine his attitude with his skill to become a loveable rogue? Or will his talent go to waste and City fans will rue what might have been?