It’s high time Mario Balotelli did his job properly
Manchester City are unbeaten in the Premier League, but unconvincing in Europe. Mario Balotelli is never out of the news, but contributes little of consequence. Occasionally the old cliche, about football being a funny game, has a ring of truth.
City, and most pertinently manager Roberto Mancini, have a lot to prove tonight when Ajax visit the Etihad Stadium. Confirmation of inadequacy in the Champions League will compromise the manager, and challenge the owners to review what appears to be misplaced faith in his leadership skills.
Balotelli converted the penalty against Borussia Dortmund which gave City their solitary, undeserved point in the qualifying group. It was nerveless and dramatic, but he has not scored in the Premier League since 31 March. That’s an eternity for a striker of his natural gifts.
We’ve heard about his determination to give up smoking. We’ve been given a virtual tour of the so-called ‘love nest’ he shares with Raffaella, his pregnant girlfriend. We’ve even been asked to accept him as a cultural icon, worthy of the cover of Time magazine.
Balotelli may be an irresistible character, but he doesn’t do his job properly. The return on City’s investment has been poor even if, by some bizarre logic, he has been included in the 23-man shortlist for this year’s Ballon D’Or, football’s most important personal accolade.
Frankly, that is a nonsense, an insult to those overlooked, such as City colleague Joe Hart, Chelsea’s Juan Mata and Dortmund’s Mario Götze. Those three have been fundamental figures at their clubs. Balotelli has been an irritant.
Of course, he is extravagantly talented – but that adjective gives the game away. Balotelli is a triumph of style over substance. His performance at West Ham at the weekend – a missed chance, a flamboyant, futile overhead kick and a pathetic burst of petulance – was his career in microcosm.
Even Mancini, who seems a little too satisfied with the security of his new five-year contract, appears to be losing patience. Unsurprising, really, because the manager’s failure to exploit his status as Balotelli’s father figure highlights an all-too typical failure to inspire.
Balotelli’s job is not to play the court jester, the man-child or the idiot savant. It is to score goals. Why Always Him? If you look at the record books, it rarely is.
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