Balotelli has been a welcome addition to English football, both on and off the field

In the preening, pampered, prima donna world of Premier League footballers, Mario Balotelli sticks out like a sore thumb. He is the edgy, risqué, dangerous option. He provides the spark of genius that any team would long to possess on a football field, which makes him, amongst other things, a fascinating player to watch. However, he also harbours a fatal lack of intelligence, and an irrepressible knack for undertaking incomprehensible actions, in full view of the often vitriolic national media. This makes him nothing short of an icon of top flight football in this country. Balotelli is a celebrity striker, in more of the Eric Cantona than the Arthur Scargill sense. How can a man who, if not actively committed this nonsensical act, then at the very least was present as others set off fireworks from his bathroom window and “accidentally” caused what was described as a “substantial” fire in his rented Manchester house.

From a media perspective, Balotelli is truly the gift that keeps on giving. Recently the Italian walked into University of Manchester’s John Rylands library and offered to settle the collective late book fines of all students. Prior to this there were rumours floating, perhaps buoyed by the constant tabloid pressure and insatiable activity on social networking site Twitter that Balotelli had dressed up as Father Christmas and was walking around Manchester city centre handing money out to members of the public. These were denied by the club, but the fact that Manchester City even felt the need to do this speaks volumes. Balotelli is clearly a mixed-up individual. He is an enigma wrapped in a riddle, shrouded by utter stupidity and an almost admirable determination not to play by anyone else’s rules.

Now this is fine off the field, potentially fatal household fires put to one side for a moment. However, Balotelli’s stamp on Scott Parker during the Citizens’ 3-2 victory over Tottenham Hotspur earlier this month demonstrated that the forward’s unpredictable nature can, and could again, directly contravene the laws and spirit of the game. Having said this, who stepped up to score the winner in that game? Mario Balotelli. And he will do so again, because despite being cursed with an intellectual capacity that most primary school children would be rather ashamed of, he has been blessed with a prodigious talent. City would do well to handle Balotelli with care. Rather like a firework. He must not, repeat, not, be simply “let off” out of the bathroom window.

Photo courtesy of The Guardian.

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