Is Mario Balotelli finally coming of age at Milan?

Author : Srihari

Mario Balotelli remains one of the most talented young strikers around (Getty Images)

Mario Balotelli has certainly been controversy’s favourite child, ever since the start of his footballing career. Whether it was setting fire to his own house in the same week that he was announced as Greater Manchester’s Ambassador for fire safety or getting into fights with his team mates, wherever Balotelli is, trouble seems to follow him.

The truth is that he has been given a reputation by the media for being ‘him’, which, admittedly can sometimes be very crazy. His actions, which are often amusing, but sometimes simply ludicrous, have meant that he has given all his coaches, a hard time. Even one of the most successful coaches of recent times, Jose Mourinho, during his reign at Inter said that Balotelli is “unmanageable”.

Whilst there is no doubt that his actions are sometimes unexplainable, like in June 2010, when he along with a group of friends fired air pistols in the open in Milan’s Piazza della Repubblica, or in March 2010, when he came under criticism by Inter fans after he appeared on the Italian TV show Striscia la notizia, wearing an AC Milan jersey, there should be no doubting the fact that he is an ineluctable talent nonetheless.

Whilst he himself has admitted that he “sometimes does strange things”, since stepping on the British Isles, he has certainly gained a cult following, particularly among Manchester City supporters who lapped up his every move. During his time in England, Balotelli was the subject of numerous newspaper stories. Whilst some have since turned out to be true, most of them have turned out to be erroneous.

For instance, immediately after joining City, when he was involved in a car crash, it was reported that Balotelli was carrying £5,000 cash at the time and when questioned by a police officer, he was reported to have said that he carried that with him because he was rich. Whilst this was later found to be true, the case of him giving £1,000 to a homeless man on the streets of Manchester were later found to be false.

Since arriving in Manchester City, Balotelli has certainly had his fair share of training ground bust-ups. He has been involved in multiple clashes with his team-mates Jérôme Boateng, Vincent Kompany, Aleksandar Kolarov, Micah Richards and even his manager Mancini. Even his goal celebrations made the news, when, after scoring against Manchester United in October 2011, he unveiled a shirt with the words: “Why always me?”

And then later on in March 2012, Balotelli surprised the whole world, when he made an unexpected appearance at Andrea Stramaccioni’s first press conference as Inter Milan manager, and finally even before leaving City, he took them to a tribunal on 17 December 2012 to protest a fine of two weeks’ wages before finally making his move to Milan in January.

Whilst his petulance has plagued him throughout his career, it seems like he has really matured since arriving from England, and he hasn’t given Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri too much of a headache. In Italy, every game is filled with either racist chants or the opposition targeting him as the main man, and yet Balotelli has restrained himself and remained as cool as a cucumber, throughout it all.

It seems to me that his maturity will go a long way in ensuring his success as a Milan player. After all, he has had a fantastic start to his Milan career, with 12 goals in 13 games, helping Milan qualify for the Champions League. And on top of that, when ‘Super Mario’ was on the pitch, Milan didn’t lose a single game for six straight months and there is no reason to think that he might not continue improving at Milan. Now that he has the backing of the coach and the support of the entire team.

Not only is he quick and agile, he is powerful as well and has the ability to hold up play and create chances for his teammates to score and that is perhaps what differentiates him from the rest. With the ability to both create and score goals, he has developed into the quintessential modern striker at Milan and still just 23, if he can keep up his form and rein in on his petulance, he might yet give the Rossoneri another decade, before he calls it quits.

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