Straight from the dark heart of Italy
Inter flew out to the States on Sunday for their pre-season tour and as the fans at Malpensa airport waved farewell, there were few tears being shed that Mario Balotelli will more than likely be a Manchester City player before the team gets over its jet-lag.
Saddled with the ‘Super Mario’ tag, the youngster has done little to live up to his moniker since making his debut as a raw seventeen-year-old under Roberto Mancini.
Now about to turn 20, those rough edges have not been softened and his career stalled last season when Jose Mourinho decided he was nothing more than a frustrating talent who was unable to integrate into a team – and exiled him to the margins of his Treble-winning squad.
Balotelli’s overall demeanour – on and off the pitch - did little to win over his doubters: throwing his shirt on the ground, winding up his own fans by donning a Milan shirt and generally acting like a spoilt brat in most people’s eyes.
In fact, there was little that he did right last year - and it seems he has still not learnt that he need not open his mouth whenever a microphone is thrust in his face.
Waiting for the flight to the USA, he was asked by reporters if he had a message for Inter fans: “Yeah, I am off on holiday.”
And a one-way ticket it will be, adding further ammunition that Inter are doing the right thing in taking the €30 million from City to be done with a player who has all the makings of being as much a disruptive influence under Rafa Benitez as he was when Jose was in charge.
At least Mancini knows what to expect, having been something of a hot-head in his playing days, which is probably why he put so much stock in the teenager when he first made his breakthrough.
There is no doubting the striker’s potential but the jury in Italy seems to have finally decided that he is guilty as charged – a wasted talent more concerned with the trappings of success than working to achieve it.
It is the likes of Javier Zanetti and Esteban Cambiasso that the Nerazzurri fans adore – because they only want to play football - but then again they are not blessed with the skill and turn of pace of Balotelli.
However, the question has to be asked: did Mario want to leave Inter, was he forced out by a dressing-room influence – or the whispers i.e. advice, over the last few months finally take hold?
The answer probably lies in a mix of all of the above, but the figure of his agent Mino Raiola looms large throughout the whole affair, having already negotiated another maverick Zlatan Ibrahimovic away from Inter this time last year.
He has been pushing all the right buttons to angle his young client in a position for a move, but so far the only firm offer has come from City – Manchester rivals United have been mentioned and before that there was Barcelona although the talking was coming from the Raiola.
When he took over the player’s management he was able to wrest a €2 million-a-year pay deal out of Massimo Moratti for his client, but with it came the flash car, the rapper-looker and an even-more inflated attitude.
The riches will double at City but maybe the move is the best option for the player to escape the goldfish bowl back home.
There will be little chance that he will pull on a Manchester United shirt on an evening out and even if he utters the sort youthful nonsense that has ruffled the feathers of Italians it is unlikely to grab as much attention in England.
It is not as if living in Milan or anywhere in Lombardy is that different from the north-west of England in winter – after all he grew up in Brescia which isn’t exactly Florence.
In the long run it may be cold comfort for Italian football to lose one of its brightest talents but for Balotelli let’s hope it is the making of him as a true professional.
More from Serie Aaaaargh!
God forbid you mention the fact that his 'attitude' towards Inter and its fans could be due to the appalling racist abuse that he gets. In fact let’s skirt around the whole fact that the level of racist abuse in Italian football is an absolute disgrace, with Inter one of the worst offenders.
In fact I would imagine he's had to put up with a fair amount of abuse his entire life, which would certainly explain the obviously big chip on his shoulder. Just a thought.
There goes the last "Italian" on the squad... Inter Milan should change their name to Inter-Argentina and be done with living up to any Italian expectations.
Nico, I completely agree that the racist abuse in Italy is disgraceful. However, it is certainly no worse than in Spain and we have seen players with the class of Eto'o come out of it with some perspective.
The commentary that a team with the name FC Internazionale being comprised of international players seems natural to me. Yorugua, should we expect something different?
I have no idea why Man City want to waste 30mil on Balotelli when they already have a glut of talented strikers. However if they offer 30mil Inter should snap their hand off.
I don't watch much Italian football, but I'll take everyones word that Balotelli is talented and has potential, but theres no way that potentialis worth 30mil.
I would have rather seen him sent on loan to another Italian team i.e Sampdoria, but if Inter can get 25-30m for a player that never looked that great in the first place, well then I hope they screw every penny out of the pretend big club, Man City.
His attitude is dreadful, and other than a bit of pace and a good shot, I don't see anything special about him. In fact, 50m for him and Maicon would be a great deal for Inter,especially if they could get Vucinic in. A front four of Milito, Vucinic, Sneijder and Eto'o/Pandev would frighten the life out of most teams.
Replacing Balotelli is easy. Maicon, however, would be a lot more difficult, with such a lack of good right backs around.
colm - You say you don't watch Italian football and then say there is no way he can be worth 30 million euros?!? How would you know then?
He is a massive, massive talent in my eyes. He has 20 goals in 59 appearances (a lot as a substitute) and he is 19 years old.
Find me any other striker in a top 3 league with a similar record. Look at the hype over 20-year-old Stevan Jovetic yet his record is not nearly as good. 8 goals in 58 league appearances.
I would put Balotelli on the same level as Pato in terms of potential and he is a big loss for Italian football.
It looks like he is going to cry every time he does not receive absolutely perfect service to his feet. Every time. I will celebrate when he leaves and do not even care if he scores 20+ for City.
I think United should get him, because him and Berba would be the perfect combination of whining, over-paid under-achievers.
Balotelli is extremely volatile by all accounts and unlikely to settle for anything less than regular first team football.
Manchester City already have a surplus of world class attacking players and he is unlikely to be a first choice striker ahead of the likes of Adebayor and Tevez.
It would not rank as a major surprise if Balotelli followed in the footsteps of another multi million pound striker Robinho by becoming rapidly disillusioned and loaned out to another club who will barely even cover his wages.
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