Balotelli’s Strange Ways

Trouble seems to follow him around

Like it did when he was a child.

He doesn’t do it to get noticed, it’s just how he is


Those were some of the words Marco Pedretti, a former playmate of Mario Balotelli, used to describe the Italian striker in an article published earlier this month by Adam Shergold for the Mail Online. Padretti’s comment is sourced from a book on the controversial footballer, which Shergold says is due for release this month.balotelli

According to Shergold, Pedretti and Balotelli were teenage playmates at Italian Club Lumezzane where Balotelli first served notice of his potential. Recalling Balotelli’s tantrums as a child star, Pedretti said: “He liked to mess about like he does now, but he was a child back then. He was constantly a real pain in the neck and would pull pranks all the time.  Bad ones, sometimes.”

These views weighed against Balotelli’s current troublesome nature, is instructive. It proves right the saying that the child is the father of the man. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be so. While tantrum is part of growing up, as many will testify, the extent to which this endures can be disturbing. You expect, as people grow older, that they shed their exuberances but this doesn’t appear to be the case with Balotelli, which explains the series of “sensational headlines” the footballer has been associated with over the years, and which, many suspect, has affected his productivity.

From his biological parents whom he reportedly ditched for his foster parents, to his love life that is often a subject of media attention, to his spendthrift image and headstrong nature, Balotelli’s story is well known but could this now be said to have any connection to the player’s current rating which is anything but impressive? Fellow Italian, Paolo Di Canio, probably thinks so. Reviewing Balotelli’s career recently, the coach noted that Balotelli “uses football to be a celebrity,” and that this may not be unconnected to his current fortune. He regrets that though Balotelli is “still young, physically strong, and (is) an incredible athlete, he’s never taken advantage of his great potential.” How sad.

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I look around the series of big money latest transfers in football today and Balotelli’s name is not one of them. For a player who has been unable to find his feet at Liverpool, and who, obviously, does not enjoy the backing of many of his team’s fans, Balotelli, were he the player he was a few years ago, could have dumped the English team or attracted interest from top European sides, but that is not the case today. Rather than big teams scrambling for the player’s services or the player himself choosing which team to play for, like Angel Di Maria of Argentina is reported to have done, leading to his switch to Paris Saint Germain from Manchester United a couple of days ago, it is the lowly placed sides, such as Bologna, an Italian club that newly gained promotion to Seria A, Al-Ahli of Dubai or Lupa Castelli, an Italian third division side, that have shown interest in the Italian player.

Castelli president, Marco Amelia, in an interaction with Sky Italia recently, explains why his club chooses to come to Balotelli’s rescue. “Our intention is to bring our friend, Balotelli, here, a player who, at this time needs to start afresh because we see that he does not want to play anymore, his fans are opposing him and is no longer able to show his quality.”

For an acknowledged gifted player, this is worrisome.  In what way is Di Maria, for instance, different from Balotelli, or, put differently, is the Argentinian better gifted than the Italian? Although they both, like other players, have their different styles or approach to the game, the extent to which one is different, in terms of endowment, from the other, is not too visible, yet one is now majorly priced as seen in Di Maria’s €63 million move to PSG at a time lowly rated teams were offering to assist Balotelli revive his career. The difference, to my mind, is the hunger and determination that each displays, besides the disciplinary record of both players.

I feel that Balotelli could have turned out a much better player had he remained at Manchester City. His time at Manchester City, where he had the opportunity of playing with world class talents, could have blossomed him but the attacker appeared to love the limelight more and so one controversy after the other led to his leaving the club in 2013.  From experience, when a good player finds himself in the midst of great players, he is likely to turn out better. But the reverse is usually the case for a great talent playing alongside average players. Such players find themselves often overstretched, with their virtuoso performances, at times, amounting to no more than a drop in the ocean.

In football, the cliché that “a tree does not make a forest” is true.  Footballers like Samuel Eto’o, Lionel Messi and Yaya Toure probably would not have turned out as accomplished as we know them to be today had they been surrounded, over the years, by less wonderful talents at Barcelona. Some critics even believe that, with all his talent, Messi would not have turned out as phenomenal as he is today were he playing for some other clubs in Spain or elsewhere. At Manchester City, Balotelli had great talents around him as well as a coach, Roberto Mancini, who liked and believed in him.

With the right attitude, the player, who moved to Manchester City from Inter Milan as a 20-year-old, would probably have turned out a better player had controversy, relating to off field antics, not dogged his steps there. Probably fed up with his ways, Manchester City’s management allowed him to return to Italy to play for AC Milan, from where he joined Liverpool in 2014. He managed just four goals for the English team in the past season, leading to questions being asked about his relevance in the team. While poor run is not strange in football, Balotelli’s poor form, apart from the injury he suffered at Liverpool, appear to be the consequence of his romance with the klieg light.

Watching many of the matches he featured in over the years, one did not quite see in him, the hunger typical of many players. It seems that his output depends on his mood or preference or just how he decides to approach a match. Which explains why some see him as aloof or cocky. Such attitude must change if he hopes to quickly bring his career back on stream, to the top level where he belongs. Talent and thirst must go hand in hand. Anything other than that could be disappointing, and, like his own case, give the impression that love of the good life and limelight is more important than the art which brought him fame in the first place.

Talent and thirst must go hand in hand. Anything other than that could be disappointing, and, like his (Balotelli) own case, give the impression that love of the good life and limelight is more important than the art which brought him fame in the first place.

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