Well, that didn’t last long, did it? Mario Balotelli’s reputation was briefly converted from that of a lunatic to a troubled, mis-understood soul by a single interview with Noel Gallagher; however it didn’t take long for him to revert to type this week following another fracas with Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini.
During the course of the fawning interview with the former Oasis guitarist for the BBC’s Football Focus, Balotelli did his best to dispel the rumours he was a mad-cap renegade prone to handing £1000 to homeless people and launching fireworks from his window the day before the Manchester derby.
“I don’t like when people talk about my business and my life. I am really private. I don’t like to talk, I like to listen,” he said.
“Maybe people think I am arrogant, but that is just me. I don’t care, they can say what they want. But me, I’m a footballer so the most important moment is on Sunday on the pitch.”
So it was with alarming regularity then that Balotelli was involved in another off-the-field incident, but this one, far from hijinks, could have serious implications for City’s stuttering title challenge.
Balotelli and Mancini were pictured arguing ferociously before the former Inter Milan player was ordered to train on his own away from City’s expensively assembled squad after reportedly been found smoking ahead of the session, while his interuption of an Inter Milan press conference would have hardly gone down well.
Balotelli’s antics have long been the subject of much humour and mirth. While Mancini was often exasperated at the latest story involving the troubled youngster it was all deemed fun and games while he was performing on the pitch.
However as City’s form has stumbled of late so has Balotelli’s, with the forward being largely ineffective in his side’s last three Premier League outing while he has scored just three times since mid-December.
His decline in form has parallels with City’s drop off the pace in general just as the title race with Manchester United hots up.
Their form at home remains as remarkable as ever - 20 wins on the bounce at the Etihad Stadium has set a new Premier League benchmark for consecutive games won at home – however on the road their form has developed into a real problem.
Their last three games on the road have been lost while away from the Etihad the goals have dried up remarkably; City have found the back of the net four times in their last six games, a stark contrast to the 14 in four they managed in their first forays in the road this season.
With Sergio Aguero injured and Edin Dzeko failing for game time and form, much of the responsibility for scoring the goals that will win City the title is now placed upon Balotelli’s shoulders, however the fact his clowning around has spilled over to the training pitch has become an issue.
“Balotelli needs to grow up – and quick. I am genuinely concerned that he could cost City dearly in this crucial part of the season” Graeme Souness wrote in his column for the Daily Star, while Robbie Savage has also spoken out on the negative impact Balotelli’s actions could have on City at such a crucial time.
Much has been made of Carlos Tevez’s re-emergence from a five month exile in Argentina, while Patrick Vieira’s comments to the media of late coupled with the club’s drop-off in form have led to claims that City are cracking under the pressure.
Amidst the accusations and counter-claims of mind games and a City capitulation, in particular on the road, Balotelli’s antics and the subsequent images of an incensed Mancini have furthered added to the pressure felt by the club just when it was not needed.
In the Football Focus interview Balotelli insisted the only reason he joined City was because of Mancini before adding that whatever the manager says, is ‘right’.
Mancini will surely be seriously thinking about the extra headache Baloteli has caused him and start to wonder whether his virtuoso talent is worth the risk at times.
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