When Manchester City signed Mario Balotelli from Inter Milan in 2010 for £24 million it was thought that the club was signing a great talent for the future. However, two-and-a-half seasons in and the term "Why Always Me" has become a household phrase, and Balotelli is known for practically all the wrong reasons.
With incident after incident in the British press from throwing darts at his teammates to becoming a spokesman for firework safety following an incident in which he set his house on fire with them, it was at least never a dull moment with the Italian international.
However, the real problem has never been Balotelli's talent. The task that he was to be the perfect and optimal professional at the age of 22 was the problem, or so it seemed. It just seemed that the youngster was never willing or ready to grow up for the Citizens.
Over the summer of 2012 during the UEFA European Championship with his native Italy, Balotelli put in performances that made it look as if he was ready to force his way into the Manchester City starting eleven.
Once again it was all a tease as his antics never ceased to amazing with the Citizens, and after 80 appearances and 30 goals for Roberto Mancini it was time to let the player move on. The training ground fisticuffs with his manager appear to have been the final straw in what initiated the opening of transfer discussion for the player.
Although the club won an English Premier League title with him in the fold, the defending champs are still set to be a much better side with the young Italian no longer with them.
Even with it being a deal £7 million cheaper than the price that was paid for him initially, with all the fines and fees that have been paid in the last 30 months by Balotelli, City are more than likely seeing it as having been an even deal. City can truly count themselves as the winners of the Balotelli transfer, even though they failed to sign a replacement.
With Balotelli gone, Edin Dzeko moves to the undisputed third attacker. Additionally, promising young forward John Guidetti could finally see more first-team appearances for the club with a chance to start truly developing his top-class English game.
However, the most important part is being free of a player that caused much controversy and disruption throughout his entire time with the club and was a thorn in the side of the locker room and the manager.
There can be no fault laid on the shoulders of manager Roberto Mancini as he did his level best for the entirity of Balotelli's tenure at City to be protective of his player and to be patient and faithful that Balotelli would come good. But that faith seemed to have suffered its final blow when the two nearly had a fist fight in training during early January.
Although Roberto Mancini may claim that he was sad to see the player leave in his press conference surrounding the club's goalless draw with Queens Park Rangers as quoted by the Guardian's Dominic Fifield:
We are all so sad because Mario was an important player for us...He's a fantastic player but, for him, this could be an important chance to go back to Italy and play for a big club in Milan. It will be a good chance for him to stay with his family, to play for Milan. I think he can improve and I'm happy he will become one of the best players in the world.
When questioned further Mancini continued to bestow praise on the young striker but it was clear to that there was an taste of relief in the air:
We talked. The club asked me what's best for me. I spoke with Mario and I think he wanted this. After three years in England, to go back to Italy will be good for him. We love Mario and he deserves to have this chance. For me, Mario was like another one of my children. I gave him his start in Serie A with me at 17 [with Internazionale]. You can be upset with him sometimes but afterwards he's a lovely lad. I've invested a lot of time with all the players. With Mario, maybe more...Saying goodbye was emotional, but it's normal. When I say that I love Mario, and all his team-mates love him, it's true.
In the end it may have been an emotional end to a long and harsh relationship, but for Mario Balotelli to leave Manchester City on good terms was better than to see it end badly and in doing so not only showed the true character and class of Roberto Mancini and Manchester City as both manager and club, but it also allowed Balotelli the chance to leave the right way. Once again his reputation was uplifted by the manager who has always had a place for the youngster in his heart.
Perhaps for Balotelli it was finally time for Mancini to push him out of the nest if you will, and AC Milan could be the even bigger winners if he finally turns his life around, and one day there may be a reunion that nets even bigger rewards.
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