After a three-and-a-half-year absence, Mario Balotelli is back in the Italy squad.
The 31-year-old hasn’t played for his country since September 2018 but earned a recall earlier this week from manager Roberto Mancini, who worked with the forward at Manchester City.
Balotelli, who has scored eight goals in 19 league appearances for Adana Demirspor this season after joining the Turkish outfit from Monza in July 2021, is now a more mature character than the bad boy who continuously made headlines during the earlier years of his topsy-turvy career.
But it’s hard to talk about the Italian without mentioning some of his craziest off-field moments.
Arguably his most ridiculous off-field incident – yep, crazier than setting off fireworks in his own bathroom – came in July 2019 when he reportedly paid a local bar owner €2,000 to drive his moped into the sea.
Bizarre footage emerged of a man named as Catello Buonocore being encouraged by a small group of spectators to drive his vehicle into the water.
Balotelli, who cleared found the incident extremely funny, was then filmed coughing up the cash after losing the bet.
Watch the video here:
“My moped was only worth €600 anyway,” the local man, who fortunately emerged unscathed, told reporters after getting out the water and drying himself off.
A harmless prank in the eyes of some, perhaps, but Balotelli reportedly found himself in hot water after the stunt when viral on social media.
Football Italia said Balotelli had been reported to police in Italy and was facing accusations of “criminal solicitation and gambling”.
Furthermore, Balotelli, Buonocore and two others faced charges for the abandonment of hazardous waste.
Balotelli has since got his career back on track
But the fall-out from this incident may have been the wake-up call that Balotelli required to get his career back on track.
The father-of-two had just left Marseille after a six-month spell with the French club and ended up joining Brescia, where he scored five goals in 19 games.
The striker then dropped down to Serie B with Monza before reviving his career as a top-flight player with his current employers, Adana Demirspor.