Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini’s decision to hand Balotelli only his seventh league start of the season against Manchester United was an unanticipated one. The Italian manager probably wanted or had hoped for a repeat of Balotelli’s performance in the 6-1 victory over the city rivals last season. However, the gamble to start Balotelli ahead of Carlos Tevez did not pay off.
The Manchester match has put the final straw in the demise of the fantastic player in the erstwhile ‘Super Mario’. Mancini's courtship of Van Persie in the summer window was a rather public affair and perhaps the loss would have hurt Mancini more because the decisive and final goal was scored in the form of an RVP free-kick. The contrast between the two sides during the whole match was astounding and was most stark in the difference between United's summer signing, Robin Van Persie and Italian ‘wild child’ Mario Balotelli.
Van Persie has been the toast among EPL's value signings
Since joining United from Arsenal in the summer, Van Persie has scored 14 times in 20 appearances. Furthermore, he’s scored decisive goals against Southampton, Liverpool, Cluj, West Ham, Reading and Manchester City. In comparison, Balotelli has scored thrice in 18 games this season.
Since his arrival at the Sky Blues, two years ago, Balotelli has been classified in the same category as Eric Cantona and Paul Gascoigne , as ‘discrepant virtuosos’ or ‘inconsistent geniuses’. Balotelli, just like them, has been afforded lenience on grounds of his 'exceptional' talent.
One might notice that after a dream start to last season, City suffered a dip in form and it seemed as if Manchester United might win its 20th Premier League title. The turning point in City’s season came when Balotelli was sent off in a defeat against Arsenal in April. Balotelli’s suspension created an opening for outcast Carlos Tevez, who helped City win their final six games and the title. And just like the repeat of the last month of last season, had Tevez started on Sunday, City might not have fallen so far behind before Balotelli was finally hooked from the field. After the introduction of the Argentinean, City appeared energized and fired up as they fought back to tie the game before losing on Van Persie’s strike.
Is 'Why Always Me' Balotelli always given the dirty job?
It is learnt now that Balotelli was sent into the big match last weekend with clear instructions to run straight into Rio Ferdinand whenever he had the ball as Mancini felt that Ferdinand’s legs ‘have gone’. Hardly during the course of the game, did Balotelli follow Mancini’s instructions, something that probably led to his substitution.
The fact that Balotelli was ready to contest the decision of City fining him two weeks wages imposed for accumulating too many red and yellow cards at the end of last season speaks all about his character. Instead of accepting the fine and moving on, Balotelli expressed his displeasure over the same. However after talks between Balotelli's lawyers and City officials, the 22-year-old later agreed to drop the action and pay the fine.
During Balotelli's time at Inter Milan, Jose Mourinho was asked about him and said: "I've got one word to describe him - Unmanageable" Mancini thinks he might be the one to turn Balotelli around and help him to see the light. It only takes one fish to dirty the entire pond and that is the state of Balotelli at City.
Balotelli is the kind of player, who despite some neat touches and good build up play, hasn't transformed his massive ability into actual on-field evident results this season. The Italian will still have plenty of takers in the market, and plenty who will still pay a good amount for his talent and thus he should immediately be replaced at Eithad.
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