JONATHAN SMITH: Balotelli may be a bambino terribile, but he was our bambino terribile

About an hour before the kick-off of the Manchester derby, there was a rumour that Mario Balotelli was at the Etihad.

Like the majority of the Mario myths, I smiled and hoped it was true.

Ahead of the derby I’d been reminded of two images featuring the Italian in recent clashes against United.

The first was the infamous ‘Why Always Me?’ t-shirt after scoring the opener in the 6-1 win at Old Trafford.

The second was his deliciously cool reaction to being accosted by half the United team – Rio Ferdinand and Anderson chiefly – at Wembley while manager Roberto Mancini and assistant David Platt try to fight them off.

That these are possibly the two most iconic images from recent derby history shows the mark he made at the club.

Those captured moments seem more monumental than that of Edin Dzeko celebrating a sixth goal in front of a three-quarter empty Old Trafford. Or Vincent Kompany’s leap towards the fans after his title-altering header.

Balotelli may be a bambino terribile, but he was our bambino terribile.

To see him join Liverpool was painful. To see him floundering and singled out at Anfield is horrible.

Balotelli has become a convenient diversion for Brendan Rodgers; distracting attention from a wasteful summer in the transfer market when Liverpool appear to have failed to sensibly reinvest the money from the sale of Luis Suarez.

His career is dribbling dismally down the drain since he left City and I hoped he was at the derby because he might consider the Etihad his spiritual home.

City striker Sergio Aguero, in his autobiography, speaks fondly of his former team-mate.

“I still miss Mario Balotelli being at City,” writes the Argentine. “Even though he used to drive us all nuts.”

Of course, it would be ridiculous to even moot the idea of bringing him back to fill the vacant fourth striker role.

While Balotelli has become a useful focal point for Liverpool’s failings, criticism of his play, although spiteful at times, is not without foundation.

And, as his form takes a slide, his off-field antics remain steadfastly juvenile.

And every manager the striker’s ever worked with has eventually given up on him, even Mancini, it’s just that Rodgers seems to be getting to that point quicker than most.

Despite all that, like a mug punter celebrated by the bookies, there’s a still a part of me that would consider taking an irresponsible gamble on him.

There’s still a fabulously gifted striker in there and possibly the only player in the world brilliant enough to score a goal with his shoulder.

Plus Balotelli would bring back a bit of rock ‘n roll that could boost a campaign, which while not failing, is in danger of falling flat.

Thankfully Manuel Pellegrini is far too focused, sensible and pragmatic to contemplate going anywhere near the madness of Mario this January.

And it was Marion Bartoli who was at the game anyway.

Written by Jonathan Smith who you can follow on Twitter

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One comment on “JONATHAN SMITH: Balotelli may be a bambino terribile, but he was our bambino terribile
  1. He will always have a special place in my memories the two moments you picked pit against man u are enough on their own for us to have a life size statue cast in his honour (which actually I think we should around The Etihad – other contenders would be Colin Bell, The Goat, Dickov, Kompany, Aguerro etc,

    Back to Mario – for all his failings the current media witch hunt is some of the most pathetic and lazt scapegoating Ive seen. Rodgers has made a real mug of himself in my opinion and is doing Mario no favours.

    Much as Mario will always have his special place in my memories thank the lord Mr Pellegrini would never take the man on.

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