3 February 2013

Rwanda: With Balotelli, It Was Only a Matter of Time


And so the news that Mario Balotelli has closed his Manchester City chapter and opened one in Italy with AC Milan is no surprise. In fact, the man who once claimed to be the second-best player in the world behind Barcelona's Lionel Messi is actually just one of many very good footballers with a lot of growing up to do which is why unlike Messi, Balotelli is expendable as it turned out.

While the Man. City board maybe relieved following his departure, I'm not sure the mutual feeling is shared by the City manager Roberto Mancini. Despite Balotelli's endless misdemeanors during his two-and-a half year stint at the club, Mancini remained a fatherly figure to the player.

And for all the remarks he made about the player like 'I don't trust Mario. No-one trusts Mario; if I had played with him 10 years ago, I would have punched his head on a daily basis; If Mario is not one of the best players in the world it will be his fault, because he has everything', there were no ill feelings.

Sometimes, I sympathized with Balotelli for choosing football as a career because his antics are suited for an individual sport. Time and again, he made stupid mistakes that cost his team. A perfect example being last season's sending-off against Arsenal; a game City lost to fall eight points behind their cross-town rivals Manchester United.

And yet even after that, Mancini declared his unrivaled patience and support for the player who had increasingly become unpopular in the dressing room.

Mancini was being disingenuous. When Balotelli was banging them in last season - he scored 20 goals in City's title-winning campaign - his eccentricity could be forgiven. But when you're hanging around on the sidelines, causing trouble in training and the boss has alternative options, it is only a matter of time before the forgiveness runs dry.

The problem with Balotelli is that he thinks he is far better than he is. But while he clearly believes he is some kind of eccentric genius, he is actually just a bit eccentric.

That said, Balotelli's departure is bound to leave the Premier League a far less interesting place.

It's true that the Italian international had done little on the pitch to warrant his employers' patience this season and yet he was still adored by many Man. City fans.

In the last 18 months, his best display came while wearing the Italy shirt in Euro 2012, particularly in that thrilling display against Germany in the semi-final.

That night, it seemed he might finally have come of age. Here was a striker snarling with intent, a player who looked ready to fulfill his promise and become a true world star.

The famous German defense couldn't cope and crumbled. However, the brilliance did not last and in the final against Spain, Balotelli's influence was negligible, the swagger replaced by the old sulk.

For City, it was been a lot worse this season. He scored only three goals forcing Mancini to stick to his frontline trio of Sergio Aguero, Carlos Tevez and Edin Dzeko.

The opportunity to make himself indispensable to his manager has been there; Balotelli has failed to take it. The talent has always been there; Balotelli has failed to use it.

Balotelli lifting his shirt to display the message 'Why Always Me?' will prove to be one of the enduring images of English football.

I believe that even when his goals become just foggy memories, he will always be remembered at the Etihad.

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