Manchester City Speculation: Why Selling Mario Balotelli Would Be a Wise Move

Alex Gruber@agruber6Featured ColumnistJanuary 22, 2013

Mario Balotelli has featured primarily on the bench this season.
Mario Balotelli has featured primarily on the bench this season.Michael Regan/Getty Images

Manchester City fans either love Mario Balotelli, or they can't stand him.

A superb talent with a knack for scoring big goals, his crazy personality and enigmatic off-field actions have drawn mixed reactions from across the footballing world.

Indeed, a recent training-ground spat with manager and mentor Roberto Mancini saw him back in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons, though Mancini moved to downplay the incident in speaking with the club's official site.

When coupling this incident with his "meager" £340,000 fine for his poor disciplinary record in the 2011-12 season, it hasn't been a good run for the Italy international off the pitch.

On the pitch, he's not been so great either. Just one goal has come in his 14 Premier League matches this season, as he sits fourth in the City pecking order behind Argentines Sergio Agüero and Carlos Tévez, as well as Edin Džeko.

This lack of form and discipline has seen transfer rumors swirling, with The Guardian reporting that AC Milan could be looking at bringing in a player who featured for bitter rivals Inter before joining the English champions.

Despite the fact that they would be losing a world-class, 22-year-old star, something no team wants to go through, Manchester City should allow this move to happen.

First of all, there is the financial aspect. Balotelli is on £170,000 a week (his fine was two weeks' wages), and could bring in somewhere in the range of £24 million (per The Guardian article above).

While free-spending City might not consider this a lot, it would be a big gain to bring in, especially as Financial Fair Play looks set to rear its ugly head on the highest-spending clubs in Europe.

Additionally, that little bit of extra wage space could allow the club to renegotiate with some of its stars to keep them in the fold, or to bring in a new face for the future.

While City don't have European competitions to worry about this season, they likely will next year, not to mention their present chase to pip rivals Manchester United to the title, and so they could look to add depth to their squad for the stretch run and beyond.

In a footballing sense, a Balotelli sale is certainly justifiable. His talent is ever-present and perhaps still growing, but his abysmal form has seen him firmly planted on the bench for much of the season.

His fantastic run at Euro 2012, including his brace against Germany in the semifinals, certainly raised expectations for the striker going into the club campaign. But he has not replicated that form, and Edin Džeko's solid start to the season saw the Bosnian jump past Balotelli.

Even Sergio Agüero's brief injury spell was not enough to get the Italian into the fold, as Mancini preferred to start the former Wolfsburg striker alongside Tévez.

While it is certainly wise to have plenty of reinforcements in a squad, especially in one that runs two strikers much of the time, Balotelli hasn't done quite enough in the last few months to justify increased playing time.

Perhaps the most pertinent factor surrounding a potential sale of Balotelli would be his disciplinary issues. He seems an easy-going kid, but that "kid" tag comes with a good bit of immaturity that he still hasn't quite ironed out.

Maybe he needs to be given more time in this respect. Mancini worked with him in the player's early days at San Siro, and was likely a huge part of why Balotelli moved to Manchester in the first place.

Just looking at last season, though, tells a story of its own. Balotelli missed 11 games through suspension, which included four for his stamp on Scott Parker and three for his sending-off against Arsenal.

In March 2011, a Europa League red card was a large part of City's elimination against Dynamo Kyiv, as they could only manage one goal that was not enough to overcome a 2-0 first-leg deficit. Per ESPN, Balotelli took the brunt of Mancini's blame for that loss.

Later that month, "Super Mario" was caught tossing darts at youth players as a prank, or just out of boredom. Either way, it was a stupid thing to do, and he was lucky that nobody was injured in that incident.

And in a pre-season friendly before last season, he decided to take an easy goalscoring chance and make a hash of it with an ugly backheel that went for an easy goal kick. He was quickly substituted and berated by Mancini on the sideline.

From setting his house ablaze with fireworks to "Why Always Me?" and everything in between, Mario Balotelli has never failed to make Manchester City an interesting team to follow over the last few years.

However, some of his non-playing work is wearing thin on the club management. Combined with his lack of playing form, he could see the exit door sooner rather than later, and City would be wise to cut their losses with the Italian.


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