Bad Boy Balotelli now A key to City success

“I am sad to leave Inter Milan because I’d have preferred to carry on professionally in my home country.”

These were some of the first words that many City fans heard from Mario Balotelli just minutes after he’d touched down in Manchester after his 2010 summer move from Internazionale.

This is now the man the Roberto Mancini finds himself leaning on as he tries to sweep the Carlos Tevez saga off the back pages.

Balotelli was a player that some thought was on his way out of Etihad Stadium this summer. Supposed interest from AC Milan and an urge to return to Italy had many thinking that the controversial striker would become another victim to the quick fix solution to get City challenging for a league title this year.

But that night in Munich changed it all. 

Mario immediately jumped above Tevez in the pecking order and, with Mancini laying down the law after Edin Dzeko’s hissy fit, was granted a starting spot for City’s fixture against Blackburn last Saturday.

One week before that Mario had come on as a second half substitute against Everton and drove City into top gear, scoring in the process.

His current form is undeniable but now Mario must be patient. If Tevez is never to play in a City shirt again, it’ll only take an injury or suspension to either Dzeko or Sergio Aguero for the temperamental Italian to find himself back in the starting XI, but Mancini must learn to control the striker’s temper and attitude.

I can’t imagine Roberto is relishing the idea of relying on Mario to keep the ship afloat at the Etihad. Red cards, lazy play, mood swings and backroom bust ups dogged Balotelli’s first season in Manchester, but we have already seen changes in his manner on the pitch.

His celebration after scoring at Everton, however, involved running straight to the City bench to give his manager a hug. He’s battling on the pitch, back tracking and supporting the play, and showing great control and decision making going forward. It’s not a complete change but it’s a start.

And it’s one that needs to continue.  Strength in depth will be needed to challenge for trophies on all four fronts this year, especially the Champions League. With Tevez gone City have just three main front men in their squad.  All we be needed frequently this year. All will need to perform when called upon.

So far, Munich aside, its gone well. But if Balotelli has the ability to change for the good so quickly, he may also have the ability to revert to the problem player that he became known as last year. With such a packed schedule and high expectation, Mancini and co can’t afford that to happen.

Oliver Wilson

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