Home > Football > Spotlight on…Mario Balotelli

Spotlight on…Mario Balotelli

Last week, Sport Report took a look at Manchester United and Mexico striker Javier Hernandez in the first instalment of the ‘Spotlight On…’ series. Next up is a young man playing for the blue side of the same city, Mario Balotelli.


Ever since Mario Balotelli broke in to the Inter Milan first team at the age of 17, it has been obvious that he has everything it takes to be a genuine world-class star. Gifted with natural attributes and sound technical ability, the young Italian international has the footballing world at his feet.


Balotelli’s Inter debut came in December 2007 against Cagliari and was followed by impressive Coppa Italia appearances against Reggina and Juventus, against whom he scored twice as the Nerazzurri won 3-2. His first league goal came in April 2008 and Super Mario finished his first season with a very respectable return of seven goals in 15 appearances in all competitions. In this short space of time, Balotelli demonstrated that he possessed fantastic pace, a stingingly powerful shot, excellent close control and superb physical strength. Italian football felt it had found its next star and Balotelli provided further evidence in his second season as he netted 10 times in 31 appearances. By the end of his second season, Balotelli already had two Scudetti to his name and had caught the eye of clubs across Europe.


As one of Europe’s leading clubs itself, Inter had no trouble holding on to their prized starlet, but Balotelli’s third, and as it transpired final, season in the blue back of Inter showed the good, the bad and the ugly of both Balotelli’s game and character.


Once again, the youngster displayed excellent pace, shooting ability and awareness and he relished the opportunity to showcase his talents on the biggest stage as Inter won the Champions League. Balotelli finished the season with a third Serie A winners’ medal, a Coppa Italia title and as a Champions League winner. He found the net 11 times in 40 appearances and demonstrated his willingness to work for the team with seven assists. On the surface this seems like a fantastic season, both on a personal and team level, but it was in fact one which presented a plethora of problems for Balotelli and raised serious questions about his temperament.


Balotelli had crossed swords with Jose Mourinho the previous season as the Portuguese accused him of a lack of effort in training, but after omission from the team for a couple of weeks, the rift appeared to be healed. It was however, a sign of things to come. Following a 1-1 draw against Roma, Mourinho singled out Balotelli for criticism and after another row between the two, the striker was left out of Inter’s Champions League match against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Balotelli was subsequently condemned by senior teammates Javier Zanetti and Marco Materazzi. His days at Inter seemed numbered, particularly after he pulled on an AC Milan jersey on a popular Italian television show. Shortly after being restored to the team, Balotelli once again displayed his petulant side. Following Inter’s 3-1 victory over Barcelona at the San Siro, Balotelli became involved in a spat with fans who had booed him. He threw his shirt on the floor and made a gesture which Inter Managing Director Ernesto Paolillo described as ‘appalling, absolutely appalling.’


Balotelli in action for Manchester City (This image is the property of Zimbio)


It should be noted that Balotelli has been subjected to completely unacceptable taunts from Italian football fans, even when representing the national side. There are those who sadly refuse to accept him as Italian and he has had to endure monkey chanting, racist chanting and fascist banners being unfurled at grounds. Under these circumstances, it is difficult for anybody to remain composed, particularly one so young. Whilst there is undoubtedly a hardcore right-wing element at work in Italian football, journalists such as Gabriele Marcotti have argued that the taunts are a result of Balotelli’s unpopularity. He is viewed as arrogant and moody and the likes of Marcotti cite the fact that other black Italian players such as Stefano Okaka and Angelo Ogbonna are not subjected to the same treatment.


This is a weak argument and anyone who saw the banners and heard the sounds aimed at the young striker when Italy played Romania in Klagenfurt last November will testify so. However, there is no doubt that Balotelli is an enigma, often seen sulking and stropping and this is an element of his character that he will need to get under control if he is to fulfil his vast potential.


Balotelli’s unhappy time at Inter was brought to an end last summer when Manchester City paid £24 million to reunite him with Roberto Mancini. Despite a first season in English football disrupted by injury and a sudden, rather bizarre allergic reaction to grass, Balotelli has again shown that he has the ability to become a world-class player. He has scored 10 goals in 18 appearances and received the prestigious Golden Boy award given to the best player in Europe aged 21 or under. Once again, his pace, power and technical ability have been there for all to see and his recent goal against Aston Villa in the FA Cup was a first time finish of the highest order. If Mancini is able to keep Balotelli happy and curb his naturally petulant temperament, he may just have one of world football’s elite strikers for years to come.


Mario Balotelli


Name: Mario Barwuah Balotelli


Place of Birth: Palermo, Italy


Nationality: Italian


Date of Birth: 12th August 1990


Career League Appearances: 70


Career League Goals: 26


Total Career Appearances: 103


Total Career Goals: 38


International Caps: 2


International Goals: 0


Key Attributes: pace, physically strong, excellent finisher and has an excellent, powerful shot

Categories: Football
  1. Chris Hollindale
    March 18, 2011 at 3:04 am

    Apparently, he still hasn’t learned to put a bib on either.


  2. Richard
    March 17, 2011 at 9:23 pm

    I couldn’t agree more really. I was talking about this very same player weeks ago on Facebook. I guess it remains for us to wait and see what becomes of him, I don’t doubt his talent whatsoever, but as you rightly said it’s whether he can settle with a manager who is patient enough to put up with his spats, if he matures and grows up out of the petulence and immaturity he can be a real world footballing talent for years and stay at the top of his game, I personally don’t think it will happen though, I think he’ll always stay in the news but sadly for all the wrong reasons.

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