If Mario Balotelli’s days at Manchester City are over – and by all means they should be – the lasting image of the talented and volatile Italian will be of his “studs up” challenge on Arsenal’s Alex Song.
His actions were reckless, classless and should lead to a one-way ticket out of the Premier League. The world’s top domestic league needs to cut its losses before Balotelli ends up ruining someone’s career other than his own.
That the Football Association has decided not to take retrospective action against Balotelli only proves that the FA is tone deaf. It doesn’t clear Balotelli of any wrongdoing. He should have been given a straight red for that potentially career-ending tackle on Song. As it were, Balotelli eventually earned two yellow cards for two more mindless tackles and was sent off in Arsenal’s 1-0 victory.
The team City is chasing but will never catch, Manchester United, would never tolerate a player like Balotelli. United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has created a culture where no one player is bigger than the club. It’s a rule of thumb in every sport: you don’t win with players of poor character. Is it any surprise that a malcontent like Carlos Tevez is no longer at United and instead creating problems, not goals, at City?
Tevez famously refused to warm up in the closing stages of a match at Bayern Munich in September. He was banished to the reserve team but because of his contract he was not banished entirely. Tevez is a fool and is merely hurting himself.
Balotelli, though, is much more lethal. His attitude and violent outbursts are beyond disturbing. Some of his actions – like his back heel shot during a friendly against the Los Angeles Galaxy in July – are amusing. It’s harmless. Balotelli is 21 years old and a bit of a knucklehead.
But age and immaturity are no excuse for trying to take out one’s frustrations on an opponent’s knee as Balotelli did with Song in the first half at Emirates Stadium. It was beyond disgraceful.
Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini, who has been Balotelli’s strongest ally, admitted afterwards that he would "probably" look to move Balotelli over the summer. Mancini even allowed that Balotelli should have received a straight red and was expecting Balotelli to be banned for the rest of the season, with his player facing a nine-match suspension if he had been charged with violent conduct.
I find it hard to believe that Balotelli will play again this year. Even he knows that his act is wearing thin.
"I'm really sorry for what happened, for the disappointment I've given to Man City and, particularly, to Roberto Mancini, for whom I have a great respect and who I love," Balotelli told Ansa news agency. "As for my future, we will see at the end of the season. I'll talk with the club and we will see."
There is already talk of Balotelli returning to Italy and perhaps landing at AC Milan. But even his home country hasn't embraced him.
The national team dropped him for the February friendly against the United States after Balotelli was penalized for stomping on Tottenham midfielder Scott Parker in January. Italian boss Cesare Prandelli is making no promises that Balotelli will represent the Azzurri at Euro 2012.
"I'm really keen to play for the national team," Balotelli said. "I made two fouls in the game. I've already lost out on the national team for one bad thing, I wouldn't do it for a second time."
He just did.