Mario Balotelli just hasn't been himself lately. Yes, the Liverpool striker is still the same volatile player of old; but there is a fiery edge that seems to have deserted him.
Perhaps the persistent - and often unfair - media criticism that Balotelli receives is starting to take its toll on him. However, as fellow bad boys Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Samuel Eto'o have shown, strikers will get away with murder if they can prove their worth in goals.
Swedish striker Ibrahimovic recently tore a journalist to pieces in a characteristically condescending interview in which he called his interviewer "a camera guy". This is just the latest in a string of run-ins the Paris Saint-Germain striker has had with the media.
However, he has continually done his talking on the pitch and - despite being well into his 30's - has scored 91 goals in 111 games for his French club, including 15 strikes in 20 matches this season.
Ibrahimovic's sensational form has ensured that he has not become a target for the press, who light-heartedly make fun of his behaviour - which a less successful striker might be absolutely slaughtered for.
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Eto'o The Rebel
Samuel Eto'o - who once went to Inter Milan from Barcelona in a deal that saw Ibrahimovic move the other way - is reportedly on the verge of walking away from Sampdoria just a week after signing for them.
The former Cameroon striker refused to board a flight to Brazil en route to the World Cup over a payment dispute - although him and his fellow Indomitable Lions stars did eventually travel to the tournament. He also refused to come off the bench in a 2007 game for Barcelona against Racing Santander.
However, Eto'o has been a revelation on the pitch and is well worth the four African player of the year awards he has won. For a player with such a lengthy rap sheet, he has got off fairly lightly with the press. This could only be down to his superb goalscoring record.
Balotelli Must Talk With His Feet
Although he has largely shunned the press, Mario Balotelli received rave media reviews after his stunning performance in Italy's Euro 2012 semi-final victory over Germany. He needs to rediscover his form if he wants to shake off persistent media allegations over his commitment to his club.
Balotelli will never stop being a rogue and a target of media attention. However, it is his form in front of goal that will continue to determine whether he is painted as public enemy number one or the coolest kid on the block.
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