Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughSuper Mario… City’s Title Catalyst - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough Super Mario… City’s Title Catalyst - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

Super Mario… City’s Title Catalyst

Since Mario Balotelli joined Manchester City last summer his off the field antics have brought him more headlines than his football, but 14 months later the Italian is making the headlines for all the right reasons – sort of!

The Italians first season in English football was somewhat disrupted by injury and the adjustment required to settle into the Premier League, not to mention some cases of indiscipline.

After scoring on début just seven days after his arrival in Manchester against FC Timisoara, Balotelli was side-lined until October with a knee injury meaning he didn’t make his Premier League bow until late October in a game which epitomised everything the 21-year-old is about. After netting away to West Bromwich Albion, it looked like the Sunday papers would bear his name for all the  right reasons, but the man who wore an AC Milan shirt around whilst playing for bitter rivals Inter, decided to alter the spotlights angle receiving a straight red card for kicking out at Youssuf Mulumbu.  If that was a sign for things to come, Manchester City fans were going to have an ‘entertaining’ time watching Balotelli. 

During his spell on the side-lines in September the striker was said to have been involved in a car crash, whilst his car had a sum of £5000 within it prompting the response when asked by police why he was carrying such money, “because I am rich.” It’s this exuberant arrogance that allows him to be both loved and hated – something which can only be good for the Premier League already boasting such talent – although few can match the Italian for self-confidence. 

In December of 2010 Balotelli won the accolade of Golden Boy Award, and as would be expected of the character, he declared that he’d “never heard” of runner-up Jack Wilshere – England’s most promising youngster and Arsenal’s key play maker. Interesting.

After declaring he was the second best player to ever receive the award (even Balotelli’s confidence isn’t enough to outdo Messi),  the striker scored his first Premier League hat-trick over Aston Villa, although his spells in the side were fleeting due to the other striking options including a pre Munichgate Carlos Tevez. 

Despite receiving the man of the match award for the FA Cup Final against Stoke in May which City won – claiming their first major title in 35 years – Balotelli’s first season in English football would be described as a disappointment, although whether that was down to his performances or whether he failed to live up to his own self-created hype is up for interpretation. 

His second campaign in England has begun much better, netting eight times already this season, impressive from just 11 starts. However, his off the field shenanigans haven’t ceased with mention of events such as the firework incident in his bathroom and his high-fiving of City fans around Manchester after the 6-1 demolition of bitter rivals United at Old Trafford.

But it’s this unpredictable verging on eccentric behaviour which makes Balotelli the footballer he is. The visible on-field sulking and resultant indiscipline last season resulted in dismissal, but this – so far – the Italian has removed that ugly side of his game, and flourished into City’s go-to man when it comes to goal, showing maturity beyond his years to step up and replace the talismanic aura that Tevez held over the Etihad.

Whilst his actions are often unnecessary and over-the-top, Balotelli is still barely an adult, someone who is still finding his feet in terms of football and life itself. Roberto Mancini City’s manager has nothing but praise for the Italian, after initially branding him “mad” earlier in the season.

“Mario is fabulous. It is impossible that he misses. I don’t know why. He shoots very well.” Which translated into proper English translates that Mancini is very happy with the forward and his contribution so far, regardless of his cocky celebrations and extravagant hair styles.

From throwing darts at players in the changing rooms to becoming a fans favourite, Mario Balotelli has come a long way in a season, so who knows where he may be in terms of football greatness in the coming seasons.

Alex O’Loughlin @AlexOLoughlin18

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