Something about the Italian striker makes us want to like him, but that something is rapidly becoming harder to find.
His talent is unquestionable, so to his ability to entertain – he is the sort of player fans want to watch yet one that most managers want to run from. Unless of course you are Roberto Mancini, who is described to be a father figure to the unpredictable striker. The problem is, fathers are often bias towards their own, and when Mancini failed to substitute Balotelli in Sunday’s clash with Arsenal, it showed that exact characteristic. The forward lacked focus, quality and professionalism as he scattered around the Emirates pitch like an over excited school-boy.
His horror challenge on Alex Song after just twenty minutes should have triggered his exit,
instead he and his team went unpunished – referee Martin Atkinson failing to notice the blatant infringement.
His next victim was Bacary Sagna, a clearance from the defender left his ankle under the studs of Balotelli’s boots. An identical challenge on the same player before half time left him on a final warning. The obvious move was to substitute him at the break – if not Carlos Tevez because of fitness then surely Edin Dzeko who would at least offer a calmer head. If he was having a positive impact on the game then you could argue his case to stay on, but he wasn’t. Despite his unplayable displays at times this season, he struggled to break down a resilient and dominant Arsenal side.
But like most father’s, Mancini gave Balotelli another chance.
Mikel Arteta’s goal on the 87th minute gave Arsenal a well deserved win. It left little time for a City comeback but it did leave enough time for the inevitable, and Balotelli’s fourth bookable challenge – his third on Sagna alone – saw him see red with moments to go. Unfortunately for City – with the clock running low on the Premier League – it now looks like the trophy will also see the red of Old Trafford. City’s board of directors looked on with glum faces as the Italian strolled off the pitch. Mancini shouted for him to hurry up, he barely broke into a jog.
The final whistle all but pulled the curtains down on City’s season – they are now eight points off of rivals United with only six games to go. And it may well of done the same to the career of Balotelli who, in Mancini’s post-match interview, was given a two year ultimatum – the now-under-pressure manager was clear that if he did not change his ways he will left finding another club.
And calls will surely come for Balotelli’s exit a lot sooner than that which in many ways will be a great shame for the league. He is a player with tremendous talent and no doubt unlimited potential, but has he pushed it a step to far with the only manager willing to put faith in him?
And will they be able to sell him if they wish to? After all, City haven’t exactly found it easy selling off unwanted strikers of late.
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