LONDON: At last, Manchester City can concentrate once more on their football now Mario Balotelli is heading out of Eastlands and back to Milan, not with his old club Inter but with AC writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
No manager could have tried harder to turn Balotelli into a consistently talented footballer, a team player and a responsible human being. But, in the end, even Roberto Mancini found Balotelli – as even Jose Mourinho once put it – “unmanageable.”
Balotelli was taking up too much of Mancini’s time and concern when both club and manager need to focus on overtaking neighbours United at the top of the table and make amends for their European elimination by reclaiming the FA Cup.
City have accepted an offer of £17m with a further £2.5m in add-ons for the 22-year-old who has taken a reduction in his £170,000-a-week wages to facilitate the deal. Balotelli will thus exchange a football environment in which he runs no risk of racist abuse from fans for an notoriously uncertain welcome on away grounds in Serie A.
The Premier champions, with an eye on the wages bill and financial fair play, were not expected to hurry in a replacement though they may have second thoughts after the disappointment of Tuesday’s goalless draw at struggling QPR.
That should have been an easy three points but City’s attack was defied time and again by the brilliance of Brazil goalkeeper Julio Cesar.
Mancini has ‘only’ Sergio Aguero, Carlos Tevez and Edin Dzeko to spearhead the pursuit of United; one or two injuries could prove fatal to City’s title defence prospects.
“We are so sad because Mario was an important player for us,” said Mancini, who has insisted he loves Balotelli like one of his own children. “With Mario we won the Premier League and the FA Cup in two years. 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.
“We love Mario and he deserves to have this chance. For me, he was not a problem. Mario was like another one of my children. You can be upset with him sometimes, but he’s a lovely lad.
“It’s important for Mario to go back to Italy. 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.”
Milan’s move for Balotelli came only a fortnight after owner Silvio Berlusconi claimed that they would not sign the player because “if you put a bad apple in the changing room, it can affect everyone.”
As Mancini noted, the media will also miss Balotelli for his headline-making talent.
He crashed his Audi R8 sports car days after his arrival, had to call the emergency services after setting fire to his house by letting off fireworks in a bathroom and missed one quarter of City’s games during his 30-month stay through suspensions.
On the other hand he scored 30 goals in 80 appearances (49 starts, 31 as a substitute) including 11 goals in 14 matches early last season and the assist from which Aguero scored City’s match and title-winning goal against QPR last May.
Most famously he also responded to scoring twice in City’s 6-1 derby demolition of United at Old Trafford by revealing a T-shirt bearing the words: “Why Always Me?”
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