Super Mario lands – but will the Premier League be good for Balotelli?

Any fan of Italian football has an opinion on Mario Balotelli. Love him or hate him (or really hate him), one thing is beyond question: the boy has an obscene amount of talent. Question is, will his move to the Premiership’s newest upstarts, Manchester City, make Mario a better, more effective player for the azzurri?
From his game against West Bromwich Albion at the weekend, almost nothing has been learned. If you’d watched Balotelli last season, you would already know he’s a great finisher with an awesome physical presence. You would also be fully aware that his fuse is short enough to blow your fingers off.
What might worry Italy fans in particular is that word will inevitably get around the Premiership that Balotelli can be very easily wound-up. In fact, the player can now look forward to countless games of being taunted and kicked until he blows his top. Think Wayne Rooney against Portugal twenty, thirty times over.
In the hellfire of the world’s most physically demanding league, it will be increasingly hard for Balotelli to keep his cool. And that’s a shame, because his flawless skills and ability to both poach and create goals really stand out in the less technically adept Premiership.
It’s impossible to know for sure whether or not Balotelli can show enough maturity to overcome the challenges that lie ahead. He is a naturally self-destructive player defined by aggressive posturing both on and off the field and it is hard to see how “special attention” from bruisers like Michael Brown and Ryan Shawcross will do anything other than provoke him.
So what can Balotelli do to avoid becoming an easy target or laughing stock? Well, much like Cristiano Ronaldo when he first arrived in England, Balotelli is a precocious and self-conscious talent susceptible to ridicule. Ronaldo found an answer, although an unconventional one. He simply became as brilliant at football as he was awful at charming the public. That too seems Balotelli’s best shot at succeeding in England.
Mancini knows full-well that if he can get Balotelli to realise his potential he will be unplayable. The prospect of a flying forward-line of Carlos Tevez, David Silva and Balotelli is mouth-watering – a fearsome creative force that City could realistically hinge a title-tilt on. Perhaps not this season, but soon enough.
Should Super Mario find success and stability in England, the positives for the national team would be immense. It will be a first, in fact, for Italy to have a world star, at his peek, playing outside Serie A. Having broken so many other moulds, it’s fair to believe that Balotelli is capable of smashing this one, too.
One factor that must be considered though, is the future of Roberto Mancini. If Balotelli is to succeed, it is essential the former Inter manager keeps his job. It is hard to see many other coaches indulging Balotelli’s petulance to the degree Mancini seems prepared to. The pair actually seem to get on! Anything other than a top four finish will probably mean the end for Mancini, so Balotelli should do everything he can to keep his boss on the bench.
The European Championships are only two years away and it will be a tall order for the truculent 20 year-old to perform such an about-face. But with a season to settle in and a full campaign in which to flourish, the stage is truly set for Balotelli to be a star… if he can show enough composure play the role.

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