Mario Balotelli is quite an enigma. And for the record, that’s a euphemism. Media in England, France and Italy have written litres of ink about this boy. Those three countries have enjoyed the good, the bad and the ugly side of Mario. And then some.
Wonderful goals one week, problems in paradise the very next week. The party never ends in Marioland. On Sunday November 24, the Olimpico will welcome one of Italy’s most colorful and remarkable footballers in ages. How did it come to this?
A car crash, sword fights, firing air pistols in open spaces, burning down a house with firework... It looks like a season of Jackass, but in reality it’s just a day in the life of Mario ‘Super Mario’ Balotelli. Add a bit of lazy attitude, conflicts with fans and coaches, and a terrifying disciplinary record, et voila! Your toxic Balotelli cocktail is ready.
There’s no doubt Mario is crazy in the coconut. But the worst Roma and Fonseca can do is underestimate him. Even though he’s 29 by now and still not grown up, Mario remains a huge player for his club Brescia and if there’s one player in their squad that can single- handedly guide them to safety, it’s Mario. But if there’s one guy on the team that can blow up everything the Rondinelle have build so far, it’s Mario as well. That’s just how Balotelli works: you can see the best and worst of him in one match.
Take for example the Hellas Verona game. After racist chants by Hellas fans, Balotelli kicked the ball into the stands and threatened to walk off the pitch. The match was suspended for a while and Mario was eventually persuaded to stay and play on. Moments later, Balotelli scored a sublime ‘Radja-esque’ goal. Brescia still lost though, but it goes to show you can expect anything from Mario when he’s on the field. There’s a reason why I picked Balotelli and not Tonali, Donnarumma, Matri or Ayé. On Sunday he’s Brescia’s most dangerous man by far.
It seems Mario has been around forever, but he has yet to reach the age of 30. He won Scudetti as a teenager at Inter, moved to City, won an EPL title, then put up a middle finger to Inter by joining AC Milan. After two successful seasons he then went back to England, flopped at Liverpool, flopped back at AC Milan, and surprised the world by moving to… France of all places.
However, that was probably the smartest thing Mario had ever done in his career. At Nice, he rediscovered his best form, scoring 30+ goals in two seasons. When you add the 8 goals in 15 games for Marseille, it looks like France wasn’t such a bad experience for Super Mario after all.
Well, apart from the way how he left Nice. A row with coach Vieira, arriving late and out of shape during training, and the various insults at the referee, or the numerous red cards he received, orr the racist abuse in the Bastia match. Damn, never mind. France was a hellhole!
And then the Summer of 2019 arrived. And look at that, Balotelli had yet another surprise up his sleeve. This time he chose Brescia as his next destination. Mind you, not even Fiorentina, Sassuolo or Atalanta. No, a newcomer from Serie B and one of the clubs predicted to have a difficult season. Well, whatever floats your boat, Mario. This boy really doesn’t like an easy path, does he?
You can’t predict Mario. The Euro 2012 tournament was perhaps the most vintage Balotelli. He started out poor, everyone wanted Di Natale instead of Mario. Fans and critics were eating him alive. Days later he amazed the world by scoring two goals against Germany, leading Italy to the Euro 2012 final. He was also named in the team of the tournament. Typical Balotelli. Find me one player with more highs and lows in his career. His life is a rollercoaster and everyone can be part of it.
After so much drama, it’s a wonder he never joined Roma; those two seem a match made in heaven. Perhaps the world is not ready yet.
‘Why always me?’, Mario once asked. Why do misery, controversy and disaster follow him? We may never figure it out. You love him or you hate him. Or love and hate at the same time. Just ask Inter, Milan or City fans. But I bet when he’s done, people will gonna miss this bad boy and his antics. The world sure is gonna be a more quiet place when he retires from football.
I’ll end with quotes from two guys who perhaps knew him best since all these years, Mourinho and Mancini.
Mourinho - “I could write a book of 200 pages of my two years at Inter with Mario, but the book would not be a drama – it would be a comedy.”
Mancini- “I told him, if you played with me 10 years ago I would give you every day maybe one punch in your head. There are different ways to help a guy like Mario. I don’t speak with him every day, otherwise I would need a psychologist, but I speak with him because I don’t want him to lose his quality. If Mario is not one of the best players in the world it will be his fault, because he has everything.”
Roma will welcome back His Royal Craziness for the first time since 2016. My advice? Don’t miss this one.
See you on Sunday Super Mario. I’m looking forward to it.