12 Reasons Why Mario Balotelli Is the Most Intriguing Player in the World

Matteo Bonetti@@TheCalcioGuyContributor IDecember 19, 2013

12 Reasons Why Mario Balotelli Is the Most Intriguing Player in the World

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    Love him or hate him, everyone has an opinion of Mario Balotelli.

    He has become one of the most intriguing and exciting figures in world football, because of his emotionally intertwined past and his volcanic actions since then—dividing his followers into two very different camps.

    Balotelli is now on his third first division club in Europe, and Milan is a place where he hopes to flourish and fully exert his limitless potential.

    With that being said, let's take a look at 12 reasons why he's the most intriguing player in the world.

Changing Look

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    Gone are the earrings, the blond mohawk and the outrageously colored football shoes.

    Mario Balotelli has agreed in the past few months to overhaul his look, making him seem like more of a team player rather than an egotistical "me-first" type of athlete.

    Guided forward by his anonymous black boots, Balotelli could hardly be described as a "flash over substance" type player anymore.

Mr. Influential

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    TIME Magazine called Mario Balotelli one of the 100 most influential people in the world, an incredible honor for someone of his age to receive.

    A few excerpts from the TIME website list his qualities as a human to be far different than public perception.

    As has often been the case throughout his turbulent professional career, Balotelli's personality has been scrutinized closely, but those who know him best all rave about his surprisingly low-key demeanor.

He Has a Pet Pig

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    Mario Balotelli Twitter

    No, that's not Antonio Cassano pictured above.

    Among his many extracurricular hobbies, Mario Balotelli has continually shared his love for his own pet pig on his social media sites.

    The pig is currently his Twitter profile picture and it is just the type of bizarre pet you'd imagine Mario Balotelli to have.

He's a Viral Sensation

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    Apart from scoring, even his celebrations become Internet sensations.

    Take, for instance, this particular pose from the 2012 Euro semifinal against Germany, when his second goal in the match was met with this iconic celebration that took the Internet by storm by becoming one of the most popular sports memes.

Not Many People Have a Better Shot Than Him

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    Without a doubt, Super Mario's best asset is his striking ability on the ball. His long-range shooting is among the best in Europe, and he is a fierce set-piece taker who always tests the goalkeeper from free-kicks.

    Other than that, his penalty record was perfect until Napoli goalkeeper Pepe Reina became the first to save a Balotelli penalty.

He Has Already Reached the Top

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    Mario Balotelli has won the Champions League.

    It seems that many people forget, considering his rather minor role in Jose Mourinho's 2010 Champions League-winning Inter.

    Despite his teenage petulance, Balotelli still gave Inter a few incredible performances, doubled with the usual idiotic red card or bizarre locker-room temperament.

Italy's Hopes Rest on Balotelli's Shoulders

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    Mario Balotelli will spearhead Cesare Prandelli's Italian national team at the 2014 World Cup.

    The hopes of a frenzied football nation lie on his shoulders, and he'll partner with Giuseppe Rossi in the attack to give the Azzurri one of the most formidable attacking line-ups that will partake in the competition.

Don't Judge a Book by Its Cover

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    Take the words of Italian legend Gianfranco Zola about Mario Balotelli on TIME Magazine as a cue of how he really is as a person:

    From afar, people may think he’s a madman, but he isn’t. Mario is a lovely guy, very humble and very funny. I can assure people he has always been a pleasure to deal with. He has returned to Italy from England as the main man with lots of attention. Now he has to ensure he keeps control and keeps focus. Mario loves the pressure, but to succeed, it is about finding balance.

Racism Woes

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    Only as recently as a few weeks ago, Balotelli became angered at Catania defender Nicholas Spolli, who apparently racially abused the Milan striker, even though reports said there was no concrete proof.

    This isn't the first time Balotelli has been subjected to such behavior. During his time with third division side Lumezzane, he was regularly jeered by the opposition who took to making monkey chants in his direction.

Why Always Me?

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    During his time at Manchester City, Mario Balotelli coined the phrase "Why Always Me?" to point out ironically the negative media attention he received in England.

    Most notably, fireworks were set off in the bathroom of his Manchester home, resulting in a media frenzy that doubted his professionalism and maturity.

    Balotelli claimed that it was his brother's friend who set off the fireworks.

He Can Score a Goal Every Game

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    Claudio Villa/Getty Images

    In the second half of last season, Mario Balotelli scored 12 goals in 13 appearances with the Rossoneri, a tally usually reserved for superstars in La Liga—much less Serie A.

    Balotelli has a more reserved goal-scoring ratio this season, having found the net six times in his first 11 domestic appearances.

    The Italian hitman showed that if he can stay away from trouble, he can score with the best of them.

He Is Simply Mario

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    Claudio Villa/Getty Images

    Whether it's trying to recreate the Macy's Parade with fireworks from his Manchester bathroom or needing concise instructions on how exactly to remove a training kit, it seems most of Super Mario's appearances have occurred on tabloids rather than games.

    Unfortunately, the racial abuse he endured as a youngster shaped him into a much different type of person than if he had grown up in a loving, caring environment.

    After being adopted by a white family in the affluent town of Brescia, Balotelli has kept little contact with his biological parents.

    His ongoing struggle with two lives has made him one of the most misunderstood yet fascinating athletes we have and one who continues to give us talking points as in this very article.