Yesterday’s Manchester derby may well prove to be the pivotal moment that Manchester United effectively won the Premier League come May, having grabbed a late 3-2 win in a superb game at The Etihad.
On a hugely disappointing afternoon for Manchester City the selection, and subsequent performance, of one man has made the headlines: Mario Balotelli.
Roberto Mancini gave the young Italian a huge vote of confidence by selecting him ahead of Carlos Tevez but Balotelli let his manager, teammates and supporters down hugely. He looked disinterested, ineffective and lazy during his 51 minutes on the pitch, and when Tevez did replace him he transformed the shape and threat of the side.
He did everything Balotelli failed to do, from working hard to linking up with Sergio Aguero. Had the relentless Argentinian started the game the result may well have been very different, and you could even go so far as to say that Mario Balotelli’s pathetic performance may have a huge bearing on costing his side the title.
The 22 year old’s eccentric personality and lifestyle have seen him become one of the most popular players in the Premier League, but on the pitch he is simply not that good. He doesn’t score many goals, isn’t creative, has a poor work rate and his general influence is fairly non-existent. He has been built up as some kind of world-beater without ever really proving himself on a consistent basis.
Over the years there have been truly great players who can get away with having a poor attitude, simply because they are such special talents and have won so many games single handedly over the years. Players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and Zlatan Ibrahimovic spring to mind, and Balotelli is not even remotely close to their level, and never will be.
For some strange reason many people see Mario Balotelli as an extraordinary footballer who has as much ability as anyone. What is this based on? He’s not even in the top five players at his own club. When has he ever done something really special, winning City a game in the process?
Edin Dzeko is not talked about anywhere near as much as Balotelli, but his match-winning cameos and influence make him the far better player of the two. Any striker who looks more likely to be sent off than score a goal is not worth persevering with.
People seem to forget that Balotelli’s sending off at Arsenal late last season was actually the moment City’s season turned around for the better. His suspension meant that Tevez came back into the side, helping them win their remaining six games and the title.
There is no doubt in my mind that if Balotelli had not been sent off at the Emirates they would never have won the league. He is a luxury player, not one who wins you trophies.
I hold my hands up and admit that I find the various stories about his private life entertaining, and as a person he seems likeable enough, but once he is on a football pitch he becomes a poisonous, destructive presence. This has to be what he is judged on before any tales of firework displays in bathrooms and dressing up as Santa Claus in Manchester.
At 22 he is still a very young player who can use the ‘lack of maturity’ joker card, but the feeling is he will never mature into anything other than a moody, inconsistent liability who can produce something a bit special once in a blue moon. I doubt the Premier League will see him for much longer.