January is an exciting time to be a football fan - drawn out transfer sagas, contract haggling agents and crazy-money moves are all in the offing.
Yet, an interesting sideshow has developed at Manchester City, with Mario Balotelli having a well-publicised bust-up with manager Roberto Mancini in training. As rumours persist that City are considering cutting their losses on the eccentric Italian, GiveMeFootball gives five reasons why keeping the 22-year-old striker at the Etihad Stadium would benefit Manchester City.
1. Undeniable talent
If there's one thing we can be certain of, it's that Balotelli is a top quality footballer. He's got 20 league goals in 53 appearances for Manchester City, and bearing in mind that he's fourth-choice striker at a club which boasts the talents of Carlos Tevez, Sergio Aguero and Edin Dzeko, that is a very respectable statistic. Add to that five goals for his national team, 20 goals in the Serie A, and the controversial youngster has started to forge an impressive CV given his age.
If that's not enough, then how about the masterclass he provided in the semi-final of Euro 2012, where he single-handedly destroyed tournament favourites Germany? His two first-half goals shellshocked the Germans and sent the unfancied Italy through to the final against all the odds. His second goal in particular was magnificent - a blistering strike into the top corner which left Manuel Neuer absolutely helpless.
The main reason why Mancini seems to persist in keeping Balotelli at City, is that he has undoubted footballing quality. The question is, can he improve his attitude before it's too late?
2. Endless potential
People often forget that Balotelli is only 22 years of age; that's younger than Theo Walcott, and only a year older than Jack Wilshere.
With what he has achieved already - a Premier league title, four Serie A titles, a Champions League title and various other domestic cups - Balotelli has already proven at such a young age that he is a born winner.
Yet the former Inter Milan striker has got time on his side to improve both his game and his attitude. He has the potential to be a City legend and based on what he has shown already, there's no reason why that potential should go unfulfilled.
3. The cost of likely replacements
A practical reason for holding on to Balotelli's services is the potential cost of replacing him.
Manchester City are a title-chasing side who don't accept second-rate players. At the moment they have four incredibly talented strikers, and if one leaves they will have to bring in a replacement of similar quality. In today's market that would cost upwards of £30million, an outlay City could do without.
Under no circumstances are City short of cash to spend, but with the new financial fair play rules set to come into force in the near future, the blue half of Manchester could do without shelling out a sizeable transfer fee for a player they don't really need.
Looking at the Citizen's other striking options, you know what you're getting from the options Mancini has at his disposal. Tevez the three-lunged workhorse, Dzeko the target-man, and Aguero the great finisher. Balotelli is different. He is the ace up the sleeve, the joker in the pack, or whatever else you want to call him. You never know what he might produce, although some may say this is his downfall.
Balotelli produces unpredictable moments of magic that can win games on their own - his wonder-strike for Italy against Germany being a prime example. It's impossible for opposition teams to devise a plan to keep Balotelli quiet as you never know what you're going to get. This is Balotelli's most unique attribute, one that City can't do without.
5. The Premier League needs an enigma
The Premier League has been blessed with its fair share of enigmatic foreign maestros.
The league has benefitted from players who mix genius with madness - step forward Mario Balotelli. Perhaps only Eric Cantona is comparable in terms of natural talent, awesome eccentricity and downright coolness?
'Super Mario's' most famous moment in English football is the iconic 'Why Always Me?' moment during the 6-1 demolition of city rivals Manchester United last season. And the Premier League needs those kind of moments; fans and pundits have something to talk about, journalists have plenty to write about, and City made a tidy profit on official merchandise as everyone flocked to the club's megastore in a bid to claim their own piece of Mario memorabilia. Everybody wins!
So not only do Manchester City need Balotelli, but so does the Premier League. It's safe to say that should the controversial frontman depart Eastlands this transfer window, England's top-tier would be worse off for it.
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