Mario Balotelli's penalty drama with Eto'o sparked brilliant Zanetti reaction in 2009

  • Kobe Tong
Eto'o speaks to Balotelli.

Mario Balotelli could be quite the handful at times during his spell with Inter Milan.

Take this iconic story from Jose Mourinho, for example: “We went to Kazan in the Champions League. In that match all my strikers were injured. No Milito, no Eto’o, I was really in trouble and Mario was the only one.

“Mario gets a yellow card in minute 42, 43. So when I go to the dressing room at half-time, I spend 14 minutes of the 15 speaking only for Mario.

Balotelli at Inter Milan

“Mario I cannot change you. I cannot make a change. I don’t have a striker on the bench. Don’t touch anybody. Play only with the ball. When we lose the ball, no reaction. If somebody provokes you, no reaction. If the referee makes a mistake, no reaction. Mario, please.

“Minute 46, red card!”

However, one amusingly dramatic moment that punctuated Balotelli’s time at the San Siro is a lot less known, but nevertheless just as funny to look back on all these years later.

Besides, while ‘Super Mario’ never did go on to reach the dizzying heights once tipped for him, the general consensus does seem to be that he’s thawed a little bit with age.

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Inter Milan 5-3 Palermo (2009)

So we can cast our minds back to the treble-winning 2009/10 season with our nostalgia glasses firmly on, recalling what proved to be a chaotic Serie A clash with Palermo on October 29.

Mourinho’s men eventually won 5-3 at the San Siro to maintain their stranglehold over top spot with both Balotelli and Samuel Eto’o scoring a brace, while Diego Milito also found the back of the net.

However, had Balotelli been allowed to have his own way during the opening 10 minutes of the game, then he could well have been leaving with the match ball for having scored a hat-trick.

That’s because the Italian striker was involved in one of the most pantomime-like versions we’ve ever seen of an occurrence that you see every now and again in football: a penalty-taking dispute.

Balotelli in his Inter Milan days.
Football – Stock – 08/09 – 11/3/09 Mario Balotelli – Inter Milan Mandatory Credit: Action Images / Jason Cairnduff

Zanetti sorts of penalty dispute

When Balotelli won a penalty for Inter, he insisted on taking the spot-kick despite that clearly running contrary to what had previously been agreed given that Eto’o lined up the ball himself.

And while most times you see an episode of the likes, it all ends with a slightly heated dispute where one player finally concedes defeat and walks off looking grumpy, Balotelli really did dig his heels in.

In fact, what happened next was a bizarre scenario where Balotelli hung around the ball for so long that it genuinely looked as though two players were about to take the penalty for Inter.

But thankfully for everyone’s sanity, one of football’s greatest ever captains, Javier Zanetti, was on hand to sort out the dilemma in amusing circumstances – check out the episode down below:

Video: Zanetti intervenes in Balotelli vs Eto’o penalty drama

That’s right, Javier; grab his hand and drag him out of the way.

Fan reaction

Fans praised Zanetti's reaction.
Fans thought Zanetti treated Balotelli like a child.
One fan's joke about Balotelli and Zanetti.

Zanetti, much like Carles Puyol and Paolo Maldini, was from the old school of football captaincy where he wasn’t afraid to take action quickly, decisively and robustly if he saw something that he didn’t like.

And although it look as though Eto’o was already most of the way there to ensuring that he would take the spot-kick, Zanetti nevertheless put the issue to bed by taking responsibility himself.

Fortunately for Inter, it all worked out too because not only did Eto’o hold his nerve and find the back of the net, but he also shared a ‘kiss and make up’ moment with Balotelli amidst the celebrations.

Balotelli and Eto'o at Inter.
MILAN, ITALY – MARCH 07: Samuel Eto’o (R) of FC Internazionale Milano issues instructions to team mate Mario Balotelli during the Serie A match between FC Internazionale Milano and Genoa CFC at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on March 7, 2010 in Milan, Italy. (Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images)

Balotelli’s penalty dispute at Liverpool

However, Balotelli didn’t entirely learn his lesson from the incident because Liverpool might have wished that they had Zanetti to hand when they won a penalty against Besiktas in February 2015.

Despite Jordan Henderson being the designated taker and having already picked up the ball, Balotelli managed to steal it from him and usurp his captain in a move that unsurprisingly sparked tense scenes between the Liverpool players.

Video: Balotelli takes penalty off Henderson vs Besiktas

Gerrard calls out ‘disrespect’

And while, again, it might have worked out in the end with Balotelli scoring from 12 yards, he nevertheless incurred the wrath of his teammate Steven Gerrard who was on punditry duties.

“Basically Henderson should have took that penalty,” the Reds icon said to ITV. “I think Mario has been a bit mischievous by stepping in front of him and going against what the manager’s planned before the game.

“Credit to him, he’s scored, but it would be very interesting in that dressing room if he’d have missed that penalty.”

Buy a Klopp t-shirt.
Buy a GIVEMESPORT t-shirt of Liverpool’s Klopp.

He then added: “Jordan is the captain and Mario showed Jordan a bit of disrespect there, but he’s scored a very important goal.

“I think six or seven players would have wanted to take that penalty so if they all say they are taking it, what happens then? Rules are in place for a reason.”

Where was Zanetti when you needed him?!

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