Balotelli courts maturity not Milan
A goal and commanding performance in Friday’s 2-0 friendly win in Poland followed other good displays for Manchester City, notably the 6-1 hammering of Manchester United at Old Trafford.
After scoring in that derby he revealed a T-shirt which read “Why always me?”, a question the colourful character also used to pose while playing at Inter Milan.
He is rarely allowed to speak publicly by PR men scared at what the 21-year-old will say next but in one post-match interview in Serie A in January last year, the forward made himself a comedy hero among many Italian fans.
“These things always seem to happen to me,” he said after picking up a needless yellow card in an Inter game at Chievo Verona which meant a suspension.
His self deprecation pricked ears and TV viewers across Italy thought he might finally be growing up.
However, in what was then typical style and with the interview apparently over, Balotelli suddenly lurched back into the shot and said: “I want to say one thing. Every time I come here to Verona this crowd disgusts me more and more.”
In one instant he went from villain to hero to villain all over again.
Even though he was trying to make a serious point about abuse from the terraces, his delivery was so comedic that people were in fits of laughter.
The list of wacky incidents went on and on and a move to England did nothing to stop them. A bobble hat shaped like a glove/chicken comb, a grass allergy, taking 5 minutes to put a bib on, being subbed in a friendly for trying an outrageous back heel and more recently fireworks being set off in his bathroom.
Pundits began to think that if disciplinarians like Jose Mourinho at Inter and Roberto Mancini at City couldn’t control him, nobody could.
Bit by bit though he is calming down and was even allowed to speak to the press this week.
“I’m not mad as some people say, although sometimes I’m entertaining,” he quipped.
Balotelli also said he was happy in the Premier League and did not expect to move back to a Serie A “in decline” any time soon.
This could be a blow for AC Milan, who are searching for another forward after Antonio Cassano, who Balotelli has replaced upfront for Italy, was ruled out for several months after having surgery on a heart defect.
Balotelli is a big Milan fan despite having played for Inter, (he once wore a Milan shirt to the huge annoyance of Inter supporters) and Milan have said they would love to bring him home.
Right now though their targets might have to shift to Catania’s Argentine striker Maxi Lopez.
Being out of the Serie A bubble with all its melodrama and finally being settled at City after previously admitting to being homesick is undoubtedly part of why Balotelli is maturing but another factor is the guiding hand of Italy coach Cesare Prandelli.
The former Fiorentina boss is the most mild mannered man you could ever meet and Balotelli seems to respect him enormously.
Cassano’s health problems and a six-month injury layoff for Giuseppe Rossi mean Balotelli is now Italy’s main striker.
With Carlos Tevez seemingly on his way out at City, Balotelli is also one of only three strikers at the Premier League leaders.
Responsibility so often breeds maturity. But keep some of the comedy, please.
PHOTO: Manchester City’s Mario Balotelli celebrates after scoring the opening goal against Manchester United during their English Premier League soccer match at Old Trafford in Manchester, northern England, October 23, 2011. REUTERS/Darren Staples