Mario Balotelli: a walking contradiction
By Bradley King
It was the moment that Manchester City fans had waited far too long for. But even in their wildest dreams, they could not have imagined the moment to be as perfect as it turned out.
With time running out on their 2012 Premier League title challenge, Mario Balotelli helped the ball on for his team mate to smash in for the most dramatic winner the Premiership has ever seen. Cue mayhem among blues across Mancunia.
Less than one year after Sky commentator Martin Tyler bellowed the now legendary bawl of Sergio Aguero's surname, the man whose well-weighted touch allowed for that moment could well be on his way out of the Etihad.
If reports are to be believed and if a fee can be agreed between the two clubs, the Italian striker is on his way to boyhood club AC Milan, which, depending on the side of the fence you sit on is reason for relief or dissapointment because since arriving in England from Inter Milan in 2010, Balotelli has dominated the front and back pages of almost every British newspaper.
Unfortunately, from City's point of view, the majority of those headlines revolved around his off-the-field antics. Whether Balotelli was dressed as Santa Claus handing out cash gifts in central Manchester or confronting the school bully, the press lapped it up. Some of the stories were true, some were not; but the mysterious celebrity of Mario Balotelli multiplied in no time at all.
But it's on the pitch where things ultimately matter and Balotelli has proved to be more of a hindrance than a help. His magical moments have been few and far between, joined together by a list of indiscretions longer than Sheikh Mansour's bank statement and manager Roberto Mancini's patience combined.
Mancini's tolerance, justified by self-confessed affection for his erring forward, now looks like it could be at an end, so soon after the training ground bust-up between the pair which re-ignited speculation about Balotelli's future.
If he does go back to Italy, Mancini will be forced to admit that his confidence in Balotelli was misguided. A stubborn man, City's manager will not change his opinions lightly but he seems to be exhausted by the overwhelming presence of his 'adopted son' and the way his ego seems to cast a shadow over his ambitious club.
As well as Mancini, his departure will spark a period of mourning for the media too who will lose the source of thousands of entertaining words each year.
But the real sadness should be with Balotelli himself. As a player who once asserted that only Lionel Messi had more talent than himself, it has to be said that he has failed in the Premier League. The potential is obviously there but he hasn't realised it so far - perhaps a return to Milan is the tonic he needs.
Instead, apart from red cards and petulance, the only on-field memory of Balotelli that many will retain is his limited supporting role in City's greatest moment.
"I swear you'll never see anything like it ever again," we were told by Martin Tyler as City sealed the title on that crazy May day. We may never see anything like Mario Balotelli again, either.