Mario Balotelli…. The Next Star That Never Was?

Claudio Villa

By now I'm sure we have heard enough about Mario Balotelli, and whether he will be staying or going during the current transfer window. Arriving in 2010, Balotelli, cost City £24 million and hasn't lived up to that price. After looking at the entire situation, I tried to think of a time where City had a player with so much talent and not live up to expectations. Robinho immediately came to my mind, so I ask; will Mario suffer a fate similar to Robinho? Or will a switch flip before his time is up?

We all have seen the skill, power, finesse and ability Mario has, but we have also seen him do some of the mostbaffling things as well. As I alluded to at the beginning Mario is in a positions that mirrors the one Brazilian striker Robinho was in while at City. Robinho was signed for a lofty price of €42,500,000, and with such a high price, come high expectations. It was a tale of two seasons for Robinho as he led the team in goals during his first season. But, his second season with the club was very disappointing, beginning with an injury that left him on the bench for three months. Unable to find his "groove" Robinho only managed one goal in 12 appearances and he requested to leave the club during the January transfer window that season citing his dip in the pecking order at the time.

Back to present day. Balotelli is coming off quite a productive season where he scored 13 goals in 23 appearances. Much like Robinho, the following season has been less than stellar. He has only managed two goals, in all competitions, in 17 overall appearances. Since arriving at City, Balotelli has been in the news constantly for his on, and off field actions. As funny and lovable they may be to a biased fan like myself, to a professional club like City these actions can be quite the nuisance to handle. Numerous times over the last two years Mario has not only had disagreements with teammates during training sessions but his coach as well. The two exchange non-verbal and verbal gestures, and this is with a man he has describes as a "father-figure."

I believe Adam Bate said it best in his piece on skysports.com; Mario is just simply not performing this year, like he has before. In the past his antics would be overshadowed by his displays of skill, but this year, it has been vice versa. And when goals aren't being produced, the antics become center stage. So far this season, Balotelli, has only managed to net one goal that came in a 4-2 Capitol One Cup loss to Aston Villa. Now the lovable troublemaker is less lovable.

Sadly, this happens all the time in sports, a player with all the potential in the world simply cracks under the pressure. Now I'm not saying Mario is cracking, but you can see something below the surface that might be affecting him. Similarly in Michael Johnson's situation, I'm sure no one knew the demons Johnson was facing, but his career came to an abrupt halt because of them. But, on a brighter note, Josh Hamilton (Major League Baseball) also battled drugs and alcohol problems as a youth in sports; thankfully he has made quite the rebound to show his true potential. Although he has relapsed twice in the last five years.

So, what's next for Mario? It seems that he will be leaving, wait I mean staying, no, no he's leaving City (depending on what report you read). If he does leave to go to another club, most likely AC Milan, will he magically become a different person on the three hour and 10 minute flight from Manchester to Milan? Probably not.

I won't be sad to see him leave, I will wish him the best of luck and hope that he finds the form he's capable of. If he doesn't find it, the sport of football will be missing out on seeing the next Pele. Although, I shall miss those moments of hilarity he has provided my Twitter timeline, but Italy may yield the same type of headlines.

Ciao Mario, ci mancherai da me.

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