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By George Hopkin on 18.4.2023

Super Mario and his Manchester City Madness

The title race may not be completely over for Manchester City, but it remains to be seen whether a certain enigmatic Italian will play a part in City’s season climax. As you’ll have no doubt guessed, the player in question is Premier League sensation, Mario Balotelli.

In City’s recent fixture with Arsenal, Balotelli was a sensation for all the wrong reasons, in fact, he was sensationally bad. City faced Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium, no doubt hoping to regain their form after two straight draws. Unfortunately for the visiting side, they ended up losing 1-0 and having their star Italian forward sent off after a flurry of bad tackles, including one particularly dreadful one on Alex Song.

Roberto Mancini, a manager in a precarious position at City, was far from happy, declaring that Balotelli, who is currently serving a three match ban, may be ‘finished’ with the Citizens. A summer move was on the cards, with commentator Alan Smith chipping in, via a column in the Daily Telegraph, saying that he was amazed that Mancini had even ‘indulged his young compatriot for so long’.

Balotelli receiving a red card in City’s recent fixture with Arsenal.

Shock horror. Football disgrace. A player exiled from Manchester City. Sound familiar? Well, it’s not an uncommon story, and there’s one player at Man City that shows that you can return from exile, and bounce back from being a pariah. That man is Carlos Tevez.

Balotelli may want to take a leaf out of the Argentinian striker’s book. Before his recent return, Tevez hadn’t played for his current club since his infamous walk off of the pitch in September’s Champions League match with German heavyweights Bayern Munich. There was such uproar and such fallout, that no one could foresee the player ever returning to the City starting eleven.

He spent a while away in Argentina, had his wages cancelled, he was even transfer listed, all but gone from the club that just a while ago heralded him as their hero. After the January transfer window passed, however, with Tevez unable to tailor a move elsewhere, his chances of returning somehow soared.

He has now risen from the ashes. Having scored a hat-trick in Saturday’s game against Norwich, Tevez has returned to the City first team, and redeemed himself in the eyes of many Manchester City fans. The case of Tevez shows that no one is forever ruled out of Mancini’s favour.

If you look at Balotelli’s record this season he has hardly done badly. 13 league goals in 22 appearances is a brilliant stat – that’s an average of over a goal per two games.

On the pitch, Mario really has seemed super–most of the time anyway. Off the pitch the story has been very different. This footballer never seems to be out of the media spotlight.

And some of the stories concerning him have been truly incredible. Have you heard the one about him going around Manchester high-fiving City fans after his team’s spectacular 6-1 thrashing over the Reds at Old Trafford? What about the one where Balotelli goes to the University of Manchester library and pays off all of the students’ outstanding book fees? Imagine that at the Templeman.

There are so many weird and wonderful rumours. Apparently this Italian international player has connections with the notorious Italian Mafia. He’s rumoured to have driven into a woman’s prison because he wanted to ‘look around’. There’s another one about how he adopted a stray cat after it kept intruding upon City’s training sessions.

Then there are the truer ones. Weeks ago he received a visit from the fire brigade because fireworks were set off in his bathroom. He also turned up at the first press conference, in Milan, of the new Internazionale head coach Andrea Stramaccioni. He casually entered the room and shook hands with the Inter coach and directors while the press patiently sat in front of them. It’s hilariously bizarre.

But this is part of what makes Balotelli a great asset to the Premier League. There are plenty of talented players in the league–maybe not all of them have the Italian’s talent, but they still have bundles of quality, playing in the so-called ‘best league in the world’. None of them, however, have Mario’s charisma and character.

Oasis star Noel Gallagher recently conducted an interview with Balotelli for the BBC and asked the Italian to never change because the City fans loved him. However, it’s not only City fans that love him, the whole league seems to have fallen for him. But has he now gone too far?

Surely ‘too far’ doesn’t exist for Mario Balotelli.

Despite the controversy surrounding his recent dismissal, Balotelli can be considered lucky to have escaped with only a three match suspension. That means that Mario could play in City’s crucial home game against Manchester United at the end of the month, a game Mancini has recently backed his striker to make an appearance in.

‘Father and son dynamic’: Mario Balotelli and Roberto Mancini

It’s not too surprising really. Balotelli, only 21 years old, and Mancini, at 47 years of age, have a famously affectionate player-coach relationship, and Balotelli was given his first big break under the silver-haired, City scarf-wearing Italian maestro. Was their bond really going to break after that one appalling game at the Emirates?

No matter what Mario does, Mancini seems to be the right manager to rein him in and guide him. Even Jose Mourinho couldn’t manage him when the Portuguese was Inter boss. Roberto Mancini brought Balotelli to the Premier League and seems to have full faith in his ability to play–even though he has confessed that he sometimes wants to punch him in the face. It’s almost like the two facilitate a bickering father and son dynamic.

And no matter what he does, the football community will surely want to watch him. He’s just so entertaining–something that is invaluable in today’s game. The fans will certainly not want to see him gone.

The only conclusive remark to be made is “watch this space”. Don’t rule this player out just yet–from his club, or from the Premier League. He may just come back and astonish everyone in what could be the biggest game of this league season: the clash of the titans at the Etihad Stadium between City and archrivals United.

We may yet be calling Super Mario a true champion come the end of the season.


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