A look at the flamboyant attacker's career so far...
Mario Barwuah Balotelli was born on 12 August 1990 to Ghanaian immigrants Thomas and Rose Barwuah in Palermo, Italy. The family decided to move to the province of Brescia shortly after the birth of the flamboyant attacker. Life didn't work out as expected for Mario's parents though and they opted to entrust their son to the Balotelli family when Mario was two-years old.
The young kid started playing football at local side Lumezzane at a young age and it quickly became clear that Mario was extremely talented. The creative attacker impressed in the youth squads at Lumezzane and was promoted to the senior side at the age of 15. Balotelli made his official debut in the Serie C1 league match against Padova on 2 April 2006.
His remarkable performances for Lumezzane didn't go unnoticed elsewhere and Balotelli went on a five-day trial at Barcelona in the summer of 2006. The striker impressed Barcelona's technical staff, but the transfer eventually fell through for unknown reasons. This gave Inter the chance to join the race for Balotelli's signature. The forward didn't hesitate and opted to join the club's youth academy.
Balotelli immediately developed into one of the most discussed youngsters around in Italy during his spell with Inter's Primavera and it appeared to be only a matter of time before the striker made his debut for the Beneamata's senior side. He made his first official appearance for Inter in December 2007 in the Serie A match against Cagliari. Only two days later, he scored his first goal(s) for the Italian champions in a Coppa Italia match. From there on, Balotelli continued to show glimpses of his huge potential. He played a role in Inter's Serie A title by scoring league goals against Atalanta, Fiorentina and Siena, while he also netted four goals in the Coppa Italia.
The young attacker was expected to develop into one of the best players around in Europe in the past two seasons, but a number of conflicts with Inter gaffer Jose Mourinho halted his progress a bit. However, this didn't stop Balotelli from winning numerous trophies at the San Siro. Up to now, the striker has won three Serie A titles, one Champions League trophy, one Coppa Italia and one Supercoppa Italiana.
Balotelli | a troublesome relationship with Mourinho
Italy Or Ghana
Ever since his rise to prominence, Balotelli has been questioned about his international preferences. Being of Ghanaian parentage, the striker had the option to choose between Italy and Ghana. Balotelli has always been clear about his preference though and he continually expressed his desire to wear the shirt of the Squadra Azzurri.
Despite being born in Palermo, Mario wasn't granted Italian citizenship until 13 August 2008. Hardly a month later, Balotelli made his debut for Italy under-21 in the match against Greece under-21 and he immediately found the net. Ghana never gave up hope on convincing Balotelli to switch allegiances and even offered him the chance to play for the Black Stars at the 2010 World Cup. The young striker turned Ghana's offer down though and was determined to break into Italy's senior side. He finally made his first appearance for the Azzurri's senior side in the 1-0 friendly defeat to Ivory Coast in London earlier this week - a match that also marked the debut of new Italy coach Cesare Prandelli.
Balotelli's rise to prominence wasn't met with enthusiasm by all football fans in Italy. The young attacker was the victim of abuse on more than one occasion. Juventus 'fans' continued to insult the Italy under-21 star throughout the 2008-'09 season and the Turin side were eventually punished for the behaviour of their home crowd.
Additionally, the young attacker received his fair share of criticism for his poor attitude both on and off the pitch. Lack-lustrous training displays and an abysmal performance in the Champions League match against Barcelona didn't do the popularity of Balotelli any good. As a result of his attitude problems, the attacker was benched for periods of the season. His performances in Italian TV shows made things only worse for the talented youngster, with Balotelli wearing a jersey of Inter's arch rivals Milan as the absolute low in the opinion of the Inter faithful.
After a disappointing 2009-'10 season, there appeared to be little doubt about it that Balotelli was on his way out of Inter this summer. Chelsea, Real Madrid, Manchester United and Manchester City were all believed to be interested in signing the hot prospect. Inter only wanted to let go of the striker for the right price though and Manchester City were the only team that were ready to meet the Nerazzurri's demands. Balotelli will now be looking to relaunch his career under the guidance of Roberto Mancini, the coach who promoted Mario to the senior side at Inter in 2007.
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