Temperamental talent at home on the biggest stage
To prove that point, too, Balotelli turned down an offer to play for his natural parents’ homeland, Ghana, preferring to wait and see if one day he would get the call from Italy.
In the meantime, however, Mario abandoned his short-lived flirtation with common sense. For example, throughout his two years at Inter Milan, Jose Mourinho regularly found fault with “the boy’s” attitude, accusing him of not pulling his weight in training.
Perhaps a breaking point with Inter came in April 2010 on the night of the club’s 3-1 Champions League semi-final, first leg win over Barcelona, a crucial step on Inter’s triumphal progress towards winning that year’s trophy. Having been brought on as a 74th-minute substitute for Argentine striker Diego Milito, Balotelli played well but reacted badly when the Inter fans gave him the bird for a somewhat flamboyant and very wide shot on goal at a moment when Inter more than anything needed to hold onto possession.
When the full-time whistle blew and at the very moment Inter were celebrating one of their biggest triumphs of modern times, Mario tore off his shirt and angrily threw it on the ground in protest at the treatment of him by his own fans. Essentially, Balotelli’s time at Inter ended there and then. His petulant gesture on such a big occasion could not be forgiven. Indeed, there were those who suggested the shirt-throwing incident was proof that, in his head, Balotelli had already set out on the long and winding road that would end up at Manchester City.
Talking about Balotelli yesterday, Prandelli pointed out that, thus far, the player has done everything asked of him, going on to suggest we have not seen the best of him yet: “He has the ability to read the game, he is not just a one-dimensional striker.”
Prandelli argues that Balotelli has been disciplined, concentrated and determined throughout these championships, a claim that might bring a wry smile to Man City faces. As illustration of his claim, Prandelli pointed out how, after Mario had picked up a yellow card against Germany, his striker came over to the coach’s bench and said: “Don’t worry, Mister, I’ll be careful, I won’t pick up another card.”
Furthermore, Prandelli also reported how, after he had taken Balotelli off against Germany when he saw the player go down with cramp, the player insisted he could still play on for at least another five minutes.
Problem was, however, that Antonio Di Natale was already on the pitch in his place. Asked about Balotelli’s future, Prandelli was yesterday categoric, saying: “He is a very talented player and he is lucky because he is in the hands of a great coach in Roberto Mancini at Manchester City. So far here, he has done exactly what we wanted him to do. Great players like him play for the team, they should never think that they have to win the game on their own.”
Perhaps Balotelli is lucky to be in the hands of not one, but two great coaches.