Underneath the bib, Super Mario is a genius
Love him or loath him, you can’t ignore Mario Balotelli.
Very seldom does a week (or day, it feels like) pass without the colourful Italian hitting the headlines. Often, for the wrong reasons.
Balotelli’s widely spread off-field antics have provoked split views from many, but in my opinion, the bloke is a genius.
Yes admittedly, he fails miserably at putting on a bib and was clearly unaware that fireworks are generally used outdoors, but in the words of the great man himself: “I’m not crazy”. Alright, he’s being kind on himself in that statement, he is a little bit crazy. Just a bit.
However, “Super Mario” as he’s quite aptly nicknamed, is regularly finding his magnificent form for Man City overlooked by silly pranks, such as training ground dart throwing. In actual fact, when you go behind all the showmanship, naiveness and rare hints of stupidity, there is a supremely talented player.
My Dad, a full-blooded Italian, to his credit predicted big things from his fellow countryman this campaign. Now I thought my old man’s footballing knowledge was fairly limited, but kudos to him on this occasion, his judgement is so far proving spot on!
Balotelli hasn’t buckled under the huge weight of my expectation and is duly producing the goods. With seven goals already this term, including five in the prem, he seems the real deal. Laid back on and off the pitch, nothing appears to faze the former Inter man and unless he’s putting it on, the pressure doesn’t tend to affect him as much as others either.
I’ll use City’s 6-1 demolition of United as an example. Just imagine, the ball breaks to you on edge of the box in front of 75,000 supporters packed into the library that is Old Trafford. Millions of viewers are eagerly watching at every corner of the globe. It’s the Manchester Derby, a top of the table clash, the biggest game of the season. Many players would have snatched at the chance, but not Mario. As if it were a training ground exercise, he merely passed the ball into the corner with incisive precision. Oh, he then went on to reveal his infamous “Why always me?” shirt.
I write this blog shortly after witnessing a Balotelli-inspired Italy see off Poland 2-0 in an international friendly. Even the Italian commentators lauded him as “Super Mario”, as the forward turned in a man-of-the-match display, and to my delight, curled the Azzurri ahead with a 30-yard screamer. The recent world champions were brilliantly led to success by the mercurial 21 year old, who later laid on a second goal for Giampaolo Pazzini. His 30th minute strike was the first for his country – there will be many more to follow, I can assure you!
Being half Italian myself, I confess, the nation conjures up some extravagant personalities. Swindon manager Paolo di Canio is a prime case of this. His outbursts have rocked League Two, in particular Crawley boss Steve Evans (who? WHO? I have not heard that name! As Paolo claims). Strictly Come Dancing fans, Robbie Savage and dare I say some Rams fans, will also vouch that judge Bruno Tonioli is quite a character. Just to confirm, I am not a fan of Strictly and do not give up my Saturday nights to sit through Sav prancing around on a dance floor!
So perhaps all Italians are like Mario? Well no, I promise you they aren’t! City boss Roberto Mancini, for instance, is a quieter, more unassuming kind of guy. Burton’s very own Paolo Peschisolido (although born in Canada), is similar.
How about you take a moment to put yourself in the shoes of a not long turned 21 Premiership footballer, with a weekly wage of £100k plus to bulge your wallet. Surely you could be forgiven for wanting to live it up the best you can? And could understandably commit a couple of schoolboy errors along the way? Yes, he could handle the fame and riches better, but is he all that bad?
At first, you’d be hard pushed to find an ounce of publicity aimed at Balotelli’s footballing exploits. However, slowly but surely, I think people are starting to come round to the fact that the kid is world class. A future star in the making. More and more frequently he’s grabbing the headlines for the right reasons. As he hits the net on a regular basis (whilst remaining virtually emotionless, of course), he is also becoming a prominent figure of Man City’s Prem destruction course.
He’s a good lad at heart. After all, for all the bad press Super Mario gets, I heard he’s recently been appointed as Manchester’s firework safety ambassador…