Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli is without doubt one of the most interesting, but controversial players in the current game. Flashes of brilliance for the Etihad Stadium outfit, Inter and Italy testify to the 21-year-old’s ability, but scandal and strange off-field behaviour have never been too far away in the attacker’s short career to date. Currently suspended by the FA for kicking out at Tottenham’s Scott Parker, here is the flamboyant forward’s rap sheet:
- Born to Ghanian parents Thomas and Rose Barwuah, Balotelli had a life-threatening intestinal illness as a child that he survived. Taken into the care of Francesco and Silvia Balotelli at the age of three, Balotelli accused his biological parents of ‘glory hunting’ when they tried to make contact with him after he became a professional footballer.
- Signed for Inter back in 2006 from Serie C side Lumezzane, Balotelli had a trial at Barcelona at the age of 15 but did not make the grade.
- Made 59 appearances for Inter, scoring 20 goals. Won three Serie A championships, one Coppa Italia, one Supercoppa Italiana and the Champions League in 2009-10.
- Infuriated Inter fans when he wore an AC Milan shirt in a television interview, was reportedly seen shopping in the AC Milan superstore, and his numerous fallings out with Jose Mourinho blighted his time at the San Siro.
- Moved to Manchester City in August 2010 for a fee of £24 million, following Roberto Mancini to England.
- ‘Mad Mario’ has been involved in a raft of motoring incidents; he has been fined £10,000 in parking fines during his time in the United Kingdom, has had his car impounded 27 times and crashed his Maserati sports car within days of having it imported from Italy. Turned the backyard of his English mansion into a quad bike track.
- Balotelli is not shy when it comes to flashing the cash; when pulled over police the striker had £5000 in his wallet. When asked why he was carrying so much money by the police officer he replied: “Because I am rich.” In December 2011 he dressed up as Santa and handed out money on the streets of Manchester; the same month Balotelli also donated £200 to his local church, before paying for a £1000 round in a bar the same day.
- Disciplinary matters have blighted his career – Balotelli has been sent off against West Brom, Dinamo Kiev and Liverpool. Fined £100,000 for throwing a dart at a City youth player.
- Let off fireworks in his house the night before a Manchester derby, before becoming an ambassador for firework safety. Broke a curfew before a game against Chelsea to go to a local curry house, where he was involved in a mock sword-fight using rolling pins.
- Scored in the said Manchester derby and unveiled a t-shirt with ‘Why Always Me?’ on it; City went on to win 6-1 at Old Trafford.
- Has been involved in training ground bust-ups with Vincent Kompany, Jerome Boateng, Carlos Tevez and most recently Micah Richards.
- After City won the FA Cup in 2011, Balotelli said: “This season I have been s***. Can I say that?”, on live television.
- After he won the European Golden Boy trophy in 2010, Balotelli claimed to have never heard of runner up Jack Wilshere and stated that Lionel Messi was the only player in the world better than him.
- Incensed Roberto Mancini by trying an audacious pirouette finish when through on goal in friendly match against LA Galaxy in the United States; was instantly substituted.
- Made his international debut against Ivory Coast in August 2010. Was spotted using his iPad on the Italy bench in a game against the Faroe Islands.
- Was summoned in September 2011 to give evidence in a high-profile Mafia court case in Italy.
And finally, there was this:
Super Mario is becoming an ever-more important member of Manchester City’s squad, and his talent in undeniable. On the international scene, he seems to be in Cesare Prandelli’s preferences currently, and is set to star for Italy at Euro 2012 this summer. However, most football fans are captivated by the Italian’s unorthodox behaviour away from the game, with the above list set to grow in years to come.