Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Should Mario Balotelli Be Given A Second Chance?

When Mario Balotelli left Inter Milan to reunite with former manager Roberto Mancini, a few eyebrows were raised. Balotelli was notorious for his attitude problems, and fans wondered whether  a striker yet to be truly proven at the highest level was worth the 24 million pounds that Manchester City payed for him.

However, in his first few weeks at City, thing seemed to be going alright, and the Italian came off the bench to score on his debut in a Europa League away match. Unfortunately, Balotelli also sustained a nasty knee injury which would see him sidelined for the next few months. But the moody, Milanese front man had already won over the heats and minds of the City faithful, and during the Sky Blues' next home match, a 3-0 win over Liverpool, chants of "You're just a shit Balotelli" could be heard every time then Liverpool striker Fernando Torres touched the ball.

Having finally gotten over his niggling knee injury, Balotelli made his full Premier League debut away at Wolves, before the epitome of his career, a match at West Brom, where, having scored a brace, he subsequently got himself sent off, an early bit of foreshadowing of the trouble that was set to come.

With his first dismissal in English football, and a series of petulant outburst towards players, managers and referees alike, Balotelli had shown the world that his frequent temper tantrums at Inter were not simply aberrational events that would cease once he left the hostile environment of Italian football, but traits that he would likely carry with him for the remainder of his career.

Fast forward to March, and having enjoyed a decent run of goal scoring form, Balotelli is at it again, seeing red for the second time, after an assault on a Dynamo Kiev player during City's Europa League exit at the hands of the Ukranians.

Following that match, Roberto Mancini made it clear to one and all that he was sick of Balotelli's behavior and would continue to drop him until he improved his attitude. Who knows how those comments effected Super Mario, the next time his name was in the paper was in a headline about bib troubles, and when he did take the field again, during a 2-0 defeat at Chelsea, he did little to relieve himself of the growing tide of media  pressure.

The truth of it is that in England the media have no time for the  likes of Balotelli, no time for mercurial geniuses, prone to sudden lapses of form, fitness and attitude. We've seen it in the past with the likes of Matt Le Tissier who hardly kicked a ball for England despite being arguably the most talented player of his generation. Balotelli is clearly, ineligible to play for the English national team, but the  comparison is still valid. The problem with Le Tissier's game was his lack of fitness, while for Balotelli it is his attitude. In England the flawed genius cannot be appreciated in the way it can in other countries, part of the reason for the English National team's technical ineptitude throughout much of its history. Balotelli embodies everything that the English dislike about footballers, he's pampered, doesn't work hard, hardly seems to care, and he possesses the type of technical genius which is so often wasted on an English audience.

Maybe twenty years ago the fact that Balotelli is black could have been added to that list, but to their credit the English have done well to root racism out of the game, in ways that the Spanish and Italians have failed to do so. Part of the reason Balotelli left Italy was because of the constant monkey chants, ones that supposedly riled him up, putting his fiery temper at risk of spiraling out of control.

So should Balotelli be given a second chance? He seems to have dug himself an awfully big hole, but with Tevez injured and Dzeko flattering to deceive, Mancini may be forced to turn to his controversial Italian recruit. In the closing months of the season, Balotelli will have the opportunity to mend what has become a fractured relationship with the City support, and if that relationship is not sufficiently sturdy come the end of the season, we may see the man with the tire tracks on his head, roll his way into pastures new.

Should Balotelli be given a second chance?

Is Balotelli good enough to make his petulance acceptable?

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