It has happened before, and it will probably happen again, but Mario Balotelli has fallen out with his club. As the transfer window gets set to open in two weeks time, is Mario the mercurial maverick coming to the end of his eventful stay at Manchester City?
In a seemingly last ditch attempt to straighten Mario out, City have fined him two weeks wages for continued ill discipline rather than for a specific incident.
Balotelli’s response has been to take his club to a Premier League tribunal claiming the punishment is excessive and not within the guidelines set out and agreed between clubs, and players.
The Italian missed 11 games last season following numerous red and yellow cards, that’s 20 per cent of his team’s matches.
His inclusion in the starting lineup ahead of Carlos Tevez in the Manchester Derby back fired as the striker putt in an insipid display before being substituted early in the second half and storming down the tunnel, not forgetting to glare at manager Roberto Mancini on his way.
Internal politics are one thing, but taking your own club to a tribunal seems to edge Balotelli closer to the Etihad exit.
Mario comes with a healthy supply of both genius and madness. Many of the best players do. Cantona, Ibrahimovic, Di Canio (apparently we can add Taarabt to that list as well). The problem is, if the genius deserts you the madness becomes intolerable.
Just one league goal all season would not be a good enough return from even a banal dressing room presence, especially one that cost £24 million.
The antics of Mario Balotelli don’t leave him with a lot of credit in the bank to cash in if the goals dry up.
Such escapades include setting off fireworks in his bathroom the night before a Manchester Derby, gate crashing a press conference at former club Inter, having his car impounded 27 times, giving £1000 to a homeless man outside a casino and now, finally, taking his club to court.
Jose Mourinho once described the player as “unmanageable” during his time at Inter (where Mario once appeared on television wearing the shirt of city rivals Milan). The relationship between Balotelli and Mancini is long and complex, not dissimilar to that of an elderly uncle and a troubled teenager.
And Balotelli has had his troubles. Adoption, birth parents taking him back before sending him back to his adopted parents, the Italian FA desperate to convince him to play for them while racist abuse rained down at him from Italian terraces, plus more money and talent than most could even contemplate wishing for.
It would be enough to turn most people’s heads.
Last summer it appeared all set that Mancini had finally lost patience and would sell Mario, having publicly stated he couldn’t trust the player, only to have a change of heart and keep hold of his prodigal son.
That faith has not been repaid and a major bid during the January window would now surely test his resolve, the question remains however, who is willing to throw their gold coins at Mario?
Milan maybe? Still reeling from the lost of the aforementioned Ibra. Paris Saint Germain are engaging in a spending spree to match Man City’s of a few years ago, but having brought Ibra from Milan do they really want two egotistical, yet highly talented madmen wondering around on the same pitch?
It could be that Balotelli feels genuinely aggrieved by his treatment and we’ll leave it up to the lawyers to decide if that has been the case.
But with their financial muscle and bulging talent pool, taking on the Manchester City board may not be the wisest move Mario has ever made.
For a man with his track record, that is saying something.