It’s only taken him three games of pre-season, but Mario Balotelli is again making all the headlines – at least this time it’s on the pitch.
The Italian bad boy angered his manager Roberto Mancini and thousands of fans inside LA Galaxy’s Home Depot Center by attempting a pirouette-back heel when clean through on goal, a cheeky, if not disrespectful, exhibition of showboating which spectacularly failed.
Party-pooper Mancini quickly withdrew the 20-year-old striker and replaced him with James Milner, before remonstrating on the touchline with the former Inter Milan star. Instead of throwing his toys out of the pram, Balotelli threw a water bottle onto the pitch.
Mancini offered a thoroughly professional response in his post-match press conference.
He said: “I hope this is a lesson for him. In football you always need to be professional, always serious and in this moment he wasn’t professional. If you are serious, you can play 90 minutes. If not, you can come and sit by me on the bench.”
Of course, when sanctioning the princely sum of £24million last summer, Mancini knew what he was letting himself in for, having previously worked with ‘Super Mario’ at Inter Milan.
Thousands of pounds of car parking fines, a training ground bust-up, human dart practice and an impromptu visit to a female prison all overwhelmed his relatively successful debut season which included 10 goals in 28 appearances, as well as flashes of his prodigious talent.
Whether you like him or not, he has been an entertaining character in his short stint at the Etihad Stadium, and it is this type of personality that makes the game greater.
Without Antonin Panenka’s audacious chipped penalty for Czechoslovakia in 1976, for example, we wouldn’t have the variety of penalty video bloopers we have today.
The Henry-Pires penalty:
The Puskas drag back:
The Cryuff turn:
And the Blanco hop:
All these extrovert exhibitions of skill are now legendary pieces of football history. Maybe the Balotelli back heel won’t be remembered in such esteem, but we can all laugh, and who knows, one day he might just pull it off.