Mario Balotelli is what he is. His talent can win games at the highest level. His temperament can destroy him, and, worse, he stands accused of contaminating the team around him.
At 21, he is close to self-ruin.
But Balotelli is not the only reason why Manchester City is falling short in its attempt to displace its neighbor, Manchester United, as England’s top club.
Both teams play every three or four days now, and United have taken the lead that City held for two-thirds of the season. And as Balotelli thrashes around, petulantly kicking opponents in frustration, he becomes the wretched image of City’s failings. Losing steam
After his latest outburst, the troubled Italian might have played his last game of this season — and possibly the last he will ever play if City decides to sell him. When the Football Association reviews the video of his atrocious foul Sunday — a kick that could have snapped the bones of his Arsenal opponent — Balotelli should expect to be banned for the remaining six games that City has left in the Premier League.
However, Balotelli must not become the scapegoat, or the excuse, for City’s blowing its chance to win the top league for the first time since 1968.
Nobody has scored more goals for the team since the New Year than Balotelli. And others at the club, from the coach Roberto Mancini on down, have lacked the maturity, the know-how or the stamina to keep up the consistency that lets United win more at the end of seasons.
It is about timing and management. United’s manager, Alex Ferguson, has been doing this for 25 years and holds his nerve, and his players’ nerves, in check better than anyone else in England.
Manchester City’s owners have backed Mancini, and no other English club has recruited more players for more money in such a short time.
When not one but two maverick players, Carlos Tévez and Balotelli, harm the team ethic, the judgment of the manager/coach has to be brought into question.