Mario Balotelli. Enigma. Entertainer. Erratic. Crazy? If there is one thing guaranteed about the petulant Manchester City and Italy striker it is that he is worth his weight in gold to the tabloid press eager to capitalise on his entertaining curricular and extracurricular activities. The man is a tabloid dream. In this age of mass media, multiple social networks, glaring camera lens and scribbling journalists have all been caught up in the personality cult of the man nicknamed “Super Mario” and aged just 21 there appears to years of material to come. Modern football fans are unused to Footballing personalities with such an extraordinary output of comedic occurrences in this “safe” era of Public Relations and political correctness. The 1970’s and 80’s in particular was the era of the playboy footballer; George Best, Charlie Nicholas and Frank Worthington for example. Hard drinkers and serial womanisers who went about their business with a twinkle in the eye and the public’s affections.
Even the 90’s had characters at the top of the game who became loved, from the Gallic arrogance of Eric Cantona to the heart-on-the-sleeve man on the street attitude of Ian Wright. Today the players make too much money and have too much advisers around them to issue anything other than standard cliches more befitting of robots than the greatest sportsmen of their era’s. Where has the wit, arrogance and most importantly fun gone? PR has taken over. The perfect example of such image-awareness is the many instances of football autobiographies that tend to be released at the peak of a popular player’s career, for instance throughout the last decade serving England players including but not limited to Beckham, both Coles, Crouch, Rooney, Rio, Gerrard and Lampard. All were watered down books that offered nothing apart from an unimaginative biography of each player’s career void of any personal views or even input, concocted by a friendly journalist and a army of club lawyers.
But then we come to Mario. Where to begin? How a man has courted so much controversy so young is beyond me but in my opinion he is brilliant. Stupid, but brilliant. With undoubted talent as a youngster he probably first became known to fans in this country not for his promise but for first getting racially abused by as Italy’s first real black star and then for the increasing stories of his petulant behaviour under everyone’s favourite egomaniac Jose Mourinho. A match made in hell and a working relationship rockier than the Himalayas. Breaking point was reached towards the end of the 2010 season when first Mario committed the cardinal sin amongst football fans of praising their rivals. Not content with admitting he was a boyhood AC Milan fan, the enigmatic Inter striker was then shown on a popular Italian tv show parading around in a Milan top complete with his name and number on the back with a cheeky grin on his face. Only a month later he was booed off the field and threatened with physical harm by a group of fans after flinging his Inter shirt to the ground in disgust as he exited the field after the club’s Champions League semi-final victory over Barcelona. In perhaps the most unsurprising event that summer, Mario was shipped of to Manchester City in a £24m deal in a move that has been worth it with comedic value alone.
August 2010 – It was only a week after his debut when the Balotelli circus crashed into the consciousness of his new home when driving to training his destroyed his £120,000 Audi R8 in a collision with a BMW. Having only just been shipped over from Milan, the car was left a complete write-off and astonished witnesses mentioned that the striker was lucky to be alive. Despite the severity of the crash, the striker turned up to training later that morning as though nothing had happened. Questioned by police who discovered him to be carrying £5,000 whilst passing through Manchester’s less desirable areas, his nonchalant reply as to the reason to be carrying such obscene and suspicious amounts of cash was “because I am rich”.
October 2010 – Detained by police, questioned and then sent on his way after he and his 17 year old brother were caught driving through the gates and into the yard of a woman’s prison in Italy in what was obviously a major breach of security. After being recognised by guards the excuse he gave was that he was “curious”.
December 2010 – Comically caught by the Sky camera’s turning up to a game vs Everton with a gigantic glove-like hat on his head before picking up the European Golden Boy Trophy later in the month. When questioned on prospective challengers and past winners, he egotistically blurted out “Who else would have won it other than me? There is only one who is a bit stronger than me – Messi. All of the others are way behind me”. When asked about English wonderkid Jack Wilshere he replied ““What’s he called? Wil …? No, I have not heard of him yet, but next time I play against Arsenal I will have to pay attention. Maybe I could show him the Golden Boy and remind him that I won it”
March 2011 – Shortly after half time in a European tie vs Dynamo Kiev Mario complained of swelling on his face and was immediately subsituted, claimed he was allergic to the grass. Although bringing derision from fans about how it is possible for a footballer to be allergic to the very surface he plays on, manager Roberto Mancini apparently confirmed he was allergic to certain types of grass.
March 2011 – A week later Mario becomes an internet viral celebrity after appearing to take minutes to put on a bib, a seemingly simple thing even toddlers can manage. after After becoming increasingly confused it took a member of the backroom staff to help Mario put it on. He then takes it off as he wants a blue one…which he again seems unable to put on forcing the backroom staff member again to help him out. Eventually Balotelli throws away the bib in a mixture of anger and bemusement. Balotelli then went out and inexplicably got sent off for a karate kick on Dynamo’s Goran Popov as Man City went out of Europe. Later that night he was allegedly caught on camera getting out of his car and confronting a group of Kiev fans whom were shouting abuse towards him. Fearless. or Stupidity.
March 2011 – Balotelli is fined £100,000 after being caught throwing darts at members of Man City’s Youth team from a first floor window at the club’s Carrington training base, failing to see the danger in such a stunt. His excuse was that he was apparently “bored”.
April 2011 – After winning the battle of Manchester in the Wembley FA Cup semi final and announcing City’s arrival at the top of English football, Balotelli is caught kissing his badge and winking provocatively towards United’s Rio Ferdinand who subsequently had to be kept away from the Italian. A mass brawl erupted after the game which resulted in Balotelli being shepherded away from the Manchester United players. He was criticised as an “embarrassment” by Sky Pundit Gary Neville but no doubt won the approval of the many Anti-United fans for his cheeky arrogance.
April 2011 – Ejected from the Rude Lap Dancing Bar in Liverpool after allegedly breaking the “no touching” rule Balotelli was seen stood toe-to-toe with five bouncers in a seemingly suicidal gesture of cockiness before being escorted away, not before one of the bouncers caused damage to his Maserati. The same month another story emerges that the striker regularly abandons the £100k Maserati outside Manchester restaurants and has run up around £10k in parking tickets as well as having the supercar impounded 27 times.
April 2011 – After a night out at Manchester’s 235 casino with Blackburn Rovers’ Christopher Samba, Mario won £25k and when outside gave £1k to a homeless man, something he apparently regularly does, confusing his bad boy reputation but nevertheless enhancing his overall bewildering attitude.
July 2011 – Received criticism from across the sport when he was substituted after only half an hour in the first half of a friendly against LA Galaxy after getting into a clear goal scoring opportunity and instead of scoring he showboated by attempting to backheel the ball into the net. Lambasted for being disrespectful from all sides he walked away from his angry manager Roberto Mancini who proceeded to follow him down the touchline whilst admonishing the striker for the absurdity of his backheel.
August 2011 – In an interview claims that whilst he has no problem with his team-mates he hates Manchester as a city, alienating him from a large section of his own fanbase. Admits he wants to move back to his home town of Brescia and perhaps even Milan.
October 2011 – Police and fire engines are called mere hours before the Manchester derby after Mario is forced to escape from his own house after fireworks were set of in the bathroom causing a fire. Police were called to control Balotelli after he reportedly ran back inside the burning property to retrieve cash and seemed reluctant to stay outside.
October 2011 – Incredibly, a few days after the fireworks incident Mario then becomes the face of Manchester’s firework safety campaign in the greatest act of irony. He is quoted as saying “It is important children should not mess with fireworks. They can be very dangerous if they are not used in the right way. People should follow the firework code”. Yes Mario…they should. Such as not setting them off out of their bathroom window.
Dec 2011 – In another act of on-field arrogance, scores nonchalantly with his shoulder vs Norwich again drawing criticism for disrespect.
Jan 2012 – Surprised college students at Xaverian College in Manchester by pulling up outside in his Bentley and walking into the premesis to use the toilet. After attending to nature, began talking to the students in the canteen before walking into the staffroom to talk to the bewildered members of staff. He was observed as walking around the school “like he owned the place” before leaving the starstruck pupils behind.
Whilst this lists his most prominent and famous incidents to date, as explored earlier there will be without doubt much more to come from a man who doesnt seem to be able to help himself. Common sense is not something that can be expected from a man whom, when seeing prostitute Jenny Thompson in a Manchester restaurant he began chanting “Rooney, Rooney, Rooney” at her in reference to her famous affair. Mario Balotelli is a very good footballer but he is a fantastic personality and I for one hope he stays on these shores for the remainder of his career. Pure theatre. As the chant goes…
“Ohhhh Balotelli, is a striker, he’s good at darts!
An allergy to grass but when he play’s he’s fucking class!
He drives around Moss Side with a wallet full of cash!!