Time is now for Balotelli to show his worth

by Martin Lindsay

Tuesday, July 26th, 2011

You either love him or hate him, but Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli has once again got the football world talking about him.

Two days after the Italian’s bizarre back-heel miss in a friendly against LA Galaxy, players and managers have cast their views on a player who is fast becoming the most controversial character in the game.

It isn’t only Balotelli’s untimely attempt at showboating that is the topic of discussion. Three minutes after the striker’s embarrassing error of judgement, City boss Roberto Mancini withdrew the Italian in what he saw as a lack of professionalism, sparking a public feud between the pair.

Mancini’s decision to remove the 20 year old from the action after only 30 minutes was a move of great humiliation for Balotelli. The striker’s embarrassment and anger was evident, showing that the City boss’ ploy to teach his young forward a lesson was successful.

It is that lesson that Balotelli must now use to his advantage. The former Inter Milan striker undoubtedly has the talent to be a huge success at City, but after a slightly unconvincing year in English football now is the time for this intriguing talent to focus solely on his career.

Many labelled City’s capture of Balotelli ‘a gamble’, given his bad-boy reputation from his time in Italy. Former Inter boss Jose Mourinho described him “impossible to work with”, claiming the striker only had “a single brain cell.”

These comments may have been said with a hint of sarcasm from ‘The Special One’, however can you blame him when you consider in March 2010 Balotelli was photographed wearing an AC Milan shirt, despite then playing for rivals Inter.

Despite a fresh start in England, the Italy international hasn’t exactly stayed clear of controversy. The striker was sent off twice in his debut season at City, as well as being found guilty of throwing a dart at a youth team player in a training ground ‘prank’.

For all his disciplinary problems City do have an outstanding young talent at their disposal, and that is what everybody associated with the Eastland’s club are clinging on to with great hope.

Balotelli is a character that no doubt puts Mancini’s man-management skills to the test. However the City boss surely wouldn’t have given the 20 year old the chance to play under him again if he didn’t think he was capable of reviving his career.

We witnessed glimpses of Balotelli’s potential in his first campaign in England, and with the right guidance City will be confident they will get more from a player they paid in excess of £20m for.

There’s always a ‘but’ with a player like Balotelli though. Undoubted talent is often overshadowed by off-field stupidity, but after this latest episode will the penny finally have dropped for a player who is in danger of wasting his career?

Balotelli’s priority should now be to keep a low profile in an attempt to re-ignite his career, although this will be difficult for a player whose reputation already goes before him.

Balotelli’s advantage is he is in no way short of advice from the City management and players as they, more than anyone, will do all they can to help their man.

It remains to be seen though if anyone in the game will be able to get through to this young player, who is at risk of becoming football’s most recent ‘could have been’.

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