Manchester City: Mario Balotelli, We Love You

Sets his house alight with fireworks then leaves Old Trafford on fire with a couple of brilliant goals. Add these latest antics to his missed backheeled showboating and his training top wrestling and we just can't get enough of the Manchester City maniac.
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Sets his house alight with fireworks then leaves Old Trafford on fire with a couple of brilliant goals. Add these latest antics to his missed backheeled showboating and his training top wrestling and we just can't get enough of the Manchester City maniac.

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Sets his house alight with fireworks then leaves Old Trafford on fire with a couple of brilliant goals. Add these latest antics to his missed backheeled penalty and his training top wrestling and we just can't get enough of the Manchester City maniac.

To quote Mark Twain, 'It is no use to keep private… which you can’t show off,' and Mario Balotelli clearly subscribes to that school of thought. He was once stopped by a policeman in his Lamborghini and asked why he had so much cash with him. The reply? 'Because I'm rich.'

On Friday he let off some fireworks from his bathroom window, setting ablaze to his house. When the police arrived, it was reported that their presence was to ensure that the Italian did not go back into the house. Loose cannon indeed.

Mario's Mad Weekend ended with some metaphorical fireworks as he slotted in a couple against Manchester United in City's 6-1 trouncing of their neighbours. After his opener, he revealed a t-shirt that read 'Why Always Me?'. Even United supporters would have found this amusing, and already the Citizens' kit manufacturers Umbro have been inundated with requests to design an official replica.

The watershed moment for Balotelli (and City) was that horrendous yet audacious piece of showboating he executed in Los Angeles during pre-season. Roberto Mancini doused the spark in a superfluously enraged manner which inflamed a nonentity of a flashpoint, yet he has since indulged the baggage that comes with his fiery talent to devastating effect. Rather than curb Balotelli's character, yesterday he championed his cult figure status.

'I didn't see the T-shirt, but it's Mario. This is why our supporters like him, because he's crazy. I love him because he's a good guy,' he waxed lyrically.

The very mention of 'Balotelli' spontaneously enraptures any football supporter because he has clearly done something. Before he came to Eastlands he was familiar to English audiences as the young Internazionale upstart with a chip on his shoulder who scythed down Cristiano Ronaldo twice before gesticulating to him that he had dived. A year later, he arrived on the San Siro turf with Inter 3-1 up against Barcelona in the Champions League semi-final and decided to remonstrate with the Nerazurri ultras during and after the victory.

Balotelli, the lovable rogue, and his impressive and innovative knack for controversy, is not only prolific in gaining YouTube hits but in the penalty box too.

He enraged José Mourinho once for wearing an AC Milan shirt to training and already his time at City is memorable for his disenchantment at being substituted, throwing darts at youth team players, the two-leg masterclass in self-destruction against Dynamo Kiev (and struggling to put a training bib on). Mancini fined him for the costly red card against the Ukranians, yet was quick to defend his angst-ridden striker at the conclusion of the FA Cup semi-final victory over United when he provoked their supporters as well as opponents Anderson and Rio Ferdinand.

Undoubtedly Balotelli is prone to puerile idiocy, but he is also one of the most refreshing aspects about a game chock-full of robotic, cliché-spouting individuals lacking the charisma that he oozes.

Mancini, not Balotelli, was previously the problem at Eastlands having alienated good players via disciplinarian methods that went down as well as Balo turning up in a United shirt. When ‘Bobby Manc’ needlessly exacerbated the Balotelli incident in California, he ironically heaped pressure on to himself to rein in the occasional recklessness of his £20m striker, all the while sustaining harmony in a group of irascible egos as his man-management came under further scrutiny.

Whoever has ordered him to lighten up deserves a hefty bonus. City are now a united unit with Balotelli, the lovable rogue, and his impressive and innovative knack for controversy, not only prolific in gaining YouTube hits but in the penalty box too - yesterday's brace made it five goals in four league games.

His anarchic bravado is an all-too-rare brand of punk football that recalls the mavericks of British football's yesteryear, only Balotelli is a world-class prospect. He was brilliant in both of City’s Wembley dates last season, picking up the man of the match accolade in the FA Cup final having displayed maturity in the semi against United and, whisper it, tentative comparisons with Eric Cantona are not entirely without merit. Now that his manager has stripped away layers of the hardened Don image, Mario could become the King of the Blues

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