Signor is home


Mario Balotelli’s English sojourn is over. He is back home. The striker has left Manchester City for AC Milan, the club he supported in his boyhood. Super Mario — the prefix may not get everybody’s approval — leaves EPL poorer in entertainment, if not in goals. After all, the Italian scored only 30 goals in all competitions during his tempestuous stay at Manchester. It remains to be seen whether home comforts rekindle the fire in his belly.

His hot head made him a centre of attention in England. He is not known to be cooler in his homeland as his tenure at Inter Milan attests. It must either be boom or doom for him in Serie A. The middle ground is for lesser mortals. For a person who is only 22 years old, Mario has seen a lot. He is such a polarising figure that it is impossible to remain equivocal while debating his career. The dissection can only be in binary: you either like him or loathe him.
Did the EPL bring out the best of Mario? Certainly not, even though he showed glimpses of what he could do when he was in the mood. Mood is inevitably the operative word. City fans would like to remember him for his lay-off that paved the way for Sergio Aguero’s sensational league winning goal against QPR on the final day last season. That the late, late winner helped City pip their bitter — and needless to say more successful — cross-city rivals United to the title must have endeared Mario to the club’s long-suffering fans.
It would be the understatement of this nascent year to say Mario is a frustrating figure. Some say his troubled childhood in a racially volatile Italy shaped his combustible personality. An Italian family adopted Mario after his biological parents from Ghana couldn’t take care of him.
The jury is still out on whether he is childish or childlike. Even the venerable Time magazine attempted to deconstruct the Italian player in a cover story recently — without much success. His compatriot and City manager Roberto Mancini had always been at the end of his tether while dealing with Mario. Mancini tried every figure in the book — father, brother, headmaster and mentor — to keep his player on track but didn’t succeed.
Mario has got talent. That’s what precisely makes him an intriguing figure. The way he took Germany apart single-handedly in the semifinal of Euro 2012 was a reminder of the precocious gifts he is blessed with. At the same time, Mario must remember that stories abound of super talented people achieving nothing as a result of their poor attitude. Nicolas Anelka once had the football world at his feet. Did he fulfil his potential? Does Mario want to emulate Anelka? The San Siro may well have the answer.

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