by Ben Willcocks
With outstanding footballers such as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo in the game, it can be very difficult for other footballers to get themselves heard. However, in this season of 2011/12, the world has been blessed by someone with a talent for trouble: Mario Balotelli.
Since leaving Inter Milan for Manchester City in the summer, he has been an attractive source for the British media; he is a versatile player, but his controversial actions off the pitch have left him a prime target. He has described himself as “a young, fresh talent who likes to have fun”, so where is the harm in that?
Before coming to England, he already had a considerable reputation for being problematic, most notably for appearing on television in an AC Milan shirt with his name printed on the back, whilst playing for their rivals Inter Milan. As a result he became very unpopular; he spent more time on the substitute bench playing his iPad, than he did on the field.
Balotelli has a reputation for “making or breaking a game”; he has scored thirteen goals in twenty two games in the Premier League this season, most notably when he scored twice in the 6-1 thrashing of Manchester United, which he celebrated by revealing an undershirt saying “Why always me?”.
This ‘confidence’ has however turned into complacency and fans have criticised him for his lack of effort. He also has an appalling disciplinary record, getting two red cards this season, which is the highest number in the league. Some pundits said he should be banned for life after a controversial stamp on Tottenham central-midfielder, Scott Parker. The attached video clip of Balotelli doing a disrespectful back-heel against L.A Galaxy also showcases his complete arrogance in front of goal.
Balotelli will also be remembered for his activity on the Internet, as he has been a very loud voice on Twitter. He firstly claimed he was “the third best player in the world behind Messi and Ibrahimovic”, and then said he had a “ding-dong like a King Kong” after sleeping with an Italian model whilst his girlfriend was downstairs.
Despite earning a substantial amount of money, he has not spent all of it on himself. For example he has already given £20,000 to a homeless fan and has walked round Manchester giving free money to anyone who recognises him. His record for speeding and parking offences is also quite incredible: he has spent £10,000 in fines since arriving in England.
Nowadays, Balotelli is regarded by most as an attention seeker. In my opinion, however, he has brought character to the game, similar to the flair of Eric Cantona or Paulo Di Canio. As a result of this, I think he will be remembered well after he eventually retires, not only for his ability and potential as a player, but also for his controversy off the pitch.