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So he’s gone then. Mario Balotelli has called time on his two and a half years at Manchester City that have been marred by petulance and stories of lunacy that have split opinion.
Roberto Mancini thought he could see through the simmering idiocy long enough to get the best out of his striker, but a training ground bust-up at the start of December proved to be the crescendo of his ill-fated time in England as the manager finally admits defeat in his quest to discover the Italian’s best which he has frustratingly shown mere glimpses of.
Balotelli has played just 25 minutes of football since tempers over-spilled on that day in Carrington as Mancini has condemned him to the bench, but AC Milan have come to the striker’s rescue with a four and a half year deal and a £17 million fee.
Balotelli has reportedly taken a pay-cut to escape his troubles at City and to join the club he has apparently supported since he was a boy, it is a deal that has taken a lot of compromise but it’s the best solution to the working relationship between manager and player at Eastlands that had appears to have reached impasse.
Balotelli’s nature for rebellion that can be a threat to any manager’s attempt to create a harmonious side now becomes the problem of Massimo Allegri who is no stranger to working on rocky ground, having steered Milan through the loss of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva last summer to leave them sitting six points off third midway through a season of transition.
Balotelli becomes the latest addition to the Rosseneri revolution and will link up with Alexander Pato and another precocious talent in Stephen El-Shaarawry, a combination that has the potential to be a very dangerous partnership indeed.
As Italy manager Cesare Prandelli will testify, Balotelli has the raw talent in abundance after witnessing his dismissal of Germany in Euro 2012. Mancini knows of his quality too, but drove himself crazy trying to persuade the striker to produce it on a consistent basis.
Underneath all the stories of madness that followed him off the field that had caricatured him as something of a cult figure for the neutral in search of light-hearted entertainment lay the most frustrating element of all, that he could betray such gifted talent to exist to be this aggravated, isolated soul who asked “why always me?”.
Perhaps he will find a happier environment in Milan and become, under the guise of Allegri, become the player Mancini had always billed him to be. His last spell in Serie A was as turbulent as his one in England as the relationship between him the huge ego of Jose Mourinho was doomed to failure.
Perhaps he will find a more settled ground from which to show his ability and produce more of the performances that saw him score twice at Old Trafford, or become the man of the match in the FA Cup final of 2011 that have been, infuriatingly for his former boss, a rarity.
He has been delightful for the neutral with his adventures off the field but now, at the age of 22, many would hope the process of maturity follows him to the San Siro so he can blossom into a favourite for the neutral on the field too.
In the parting words of Mancini, “he can become one of the best players in Europe”, let’s hope, for the sake of misguided talent, that isn’t just a prophecy tarred with blind faith.
Written by Adam Gray
Follow him on Twitter @AdamGray1250
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