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Thursday April 12 2012
Balo in the balance

After again making the headlines for the wrong reasons, Giancarlo Rinaldi asks whether Italy boss Cesare Prandelli should take a Euro 2012 gamble on Mario Balotelli.

Cesare Prandelli, I like to imagine, must have picked up his mobile phone anxiously. He heard the familiar chime meaning he had received a message and then spotted the sender's name: Roberto Mancini. He opened the text with nervous anticipation – knowing there was only one subject matter it was likely to contain.

“Mario up to his old tricks. Not picking him ever again and will send him packing in the summer. Good luck building a Euro team around him! Mancio.”

It might not have happened exactly like that – especially given the alleged peace now made between the two – but the upshot is the same. Like a long-suffering father reading his errant son's school report, Prandelli must be shaking his head in despair once again. How do you solve a problem like Mario?

The situation is complicated by the moral stance the Italy boss has taken over his call-ups. An old fox like Giovanni Trapattoni or the pragmatic Marcello Lippi might have found a way to select a man who, when on song, can win any match. But the former Fiorentina Coach has made such a selection difficult to justify.

The slouching, surly Balotelli witnessed in recent outings would not be much use to anyone. The chances of his shinpad-rattling tackles going unpunished in Poland and the Ukraine are negligible. So why take a player who is as likely to end up suspended as score a stunning strike? Like setting off fireworks in your bathroom, it is surely not a risk worth taking.

However, the waters are muddied by the issues with the Azzurri's other striking options. Antonio Cassano has just a few minutes of Serie A action in his legs after his welcome return from a health scare. Villarreal's Giuseppe Rossi has made even less progress down the road to recovery. And the likes of Alessandro Matri and Giampaolo Pazzini are not even guaranteed a start with their club sides. Alberto Gilardino has struggled for goals all season, while Roma's Pablo Osvaldo has also had his problems with injury and an omission under Prandelli's ethical code. With Antonio Di Natale having never been selected by Prandelli, it just about leaves only Sebastian Giovinco as an attacking option to rely on.

All these complications make the Balotelli path both tempting and terrifying in equal measure. If you can get him in the mood he can win matches single-handed and produce brilliance no other Italy forward can come close to. Yet he comes with more health warnings than a packet of cigarettes with a stick of dynamite attached. Select him and it might easily blow up in your face.

The number of Coaches who have washed their hands of him seems to grow by the week. And yet, as long as he produces the odd wonder goal, there will surely always be somebody willing to take a chance on him. The question is, can Prandelli afford to be one of them?

Taking Balotelli to Euro 2012 would be like tightrope walking over a pool of piranhas while juggling live grenades. If it comes off, it is likely to earn awestruck applause from any onlooker. But if it goes wrong, it could be a messy business.

Italian football, of course, is littered with the stories of ‘bad boys’ who mended their ways and became greats. Mancini himself had more than one youthful run-in with authority. And Francesco Totti was another player who caused his fair share of consternation before helping lift a World Cup in 2006. Saving Super Mario, however, looks like the toughest task of all.

It is likely to be one of the yardsticks by which Prandelli's reign with Italy will be judged. If he can enjoy success without the Manchester City striker or successfully rehabilitate him, then he deserves plenty of plaudits. It is a managerial challenge which has already stumped Jose Mourinho and Mancini. Unlike his club counterparts, however, Prandelli can't pass the problem on to anyone. Instead, it will take all his patience, diplomacy and understanding to come up with the solution which has so far slipped through everybody else's grasp.

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Have your say...
Once again the way you guys describe Balo makes you think of some phenomenal player which he isn't. Balo has potential in leaps and bounds but that's about it. If Italy has a player capable of producing magic it's Cassano (fit or not he's much better than Balo). Closest to Cassano but way unproven at Int level is Seba. But starting Cassano and Seba means Italy will not have a natural goal scorer. As for Balo the only thing going for him, is that he has played most games in qualifiers.
on the 7th May, 2012 at 10:24am
Balotelli is hard done by but he does himself no favours either as he showed against Arsenal. It was not the 2 bookable offences that worries me it was the stupid first tackle that he got away with. I would take him but he is a worry and if I was Prandelli he would understand that as soon as he gets booked in a match I would replace him for his own sake as well as the teams. Refs will be watching his every action. Forza Italia with Balotelli or without him.
on the 14th April, 2012 at 9:14pm
.... If 'the pran' doesnt take him, he'll regret it as Italy are stuck for quality strikers without Balo. Sure his temprament and playmenship might come into question but didnt Totti prove himself???
on the 14th April, 2012 at 8:03pm
@Leo... 2006... I'd love a repeat of 2006. Italy won the world cup! Without any problem strickers, so on that note Leave balotelli at home!
on the 13th April, 2012 at 10:25am
Italy needs to play mostly Juve players so they can play Juve's style of play. I would suggest a 3-5-1-1 or 4-3-3, the same as Juve.

Buffon; Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini; Maggio, De Rossi, Pirlo, Marchisio, De Ceglie/Criscito; Giovinco/Del Piero; Balotelli/Di Natale/Quagliarella/Pazzini/Matri

OR

Buffon; Maggio, Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini; De Rossi, Pirlo, Marchisio; Giovinco, Balotelli/Di Natale/Quagliarella/Pazzini/Matri, Pepe.

I have assumed that neither Cassano nor G. Rossi will be fit.
on the 13th April, 2012 at 9:35am
So no other Italian striker has the skill of Balotelli? I think Cassano and Giovinco might have something to say about that.

And enough of this Balotelli CAN win matches singlehandedly, Giovinco HAS been winning matches single handedly for Parma this season. Practically every goal they score he either scores, assists, or sets up with a brilliant pass (see last weeked against Novara). That is something Balotelli doesn't have in his game.
on the 13th April, 2012 at 7:32am
Umberto makes a valid point, the Media have created a Monster. If anyone watched the Football Focus interview with Mario, he denied almost every allegation made against him, there's an urban myth surrounding him which is going against him, and as a result anything he does on the pitch gets blown out of proportion at times... But granted he really needs to sort his life out and focus on his Football.
on the 13th April, 2012 at 7:06am
By far the most overated lazy pathetic excuse for a footballer i have ever seen? Thats all i have to say on the matter.
on the 13th April, 2012 at 6:45am
PLEASE PLEASE KEEP HIM AS FAR AWAY FROM THE SQUAD AS POSSIBLE
on the 13th April, 2012 at 6:38am
@Marco - how is Balotelli defacing Italian football? It's only himself he's letting down, how can you cast italian football in a bad light when you play in England? Balo has no interest in playing for City and in fairness there are plenty other footballers who feel the same as him, despite the cash thrown at them by that club.Balo was a big game player when he played for Inter. Some of the goals he scored in Serie A have been both out of this world and at critical moments in important games.
on the 13th April, 2012 at 6:00am
balotelli is a good player but his actions and emotions on the pitch are atrocious. if i were prandelli, i would pick him but i will not start wid him in crunch matches. he should give di natale a chance. borini, osvaldo and el sharaway are other options that can be taken.
on the 13th April, 2012 at 4:44am
Prandelli should take a chance on Balo with the understanding that he will be expelled from the team if he acts up in any way. I think the reason Mancini is allowing Balo to play against Manchester United to give him another chance at redemption so that Prandelli can justify calling him up despite his disciplinary issues.
on the 13th April, 2012 at 1:48am
i will take super mario, no doubt about it, he is the best italian striker, and would do well at the euro, mario along can win the euro for italy, i truly blieve that he is that good, people forget that what ever mario does, the media always make big deal out of it,
on the 13th April, 2012 at 12:12am
Personally I would def take Super Mario, he is one of the few Italian players who is a real world beater, he is Italys Ronaldo or Messi!

Sure he carries a problem but if Prandelli can do a Allegri and handle him then there is a great chance Mario will do well. The Euro's are only 4 weeks...surely Mario can behave for that long.

Oh and El Shawaary will not be called up lol Maybe in the next Euro's he will but at the moment he is def not ready.
on the 13th April, 2012 at 12:10am
Given the injuries to Cassano and Rossi, Prandelli doesn't have much choice but to take him. The lack of quality back-ups is there for all to see. I'd bring Rossi, Cassano, Baltelli, Di Natale and Giovinco as the 5 forwads.
on the 12th April, 2012 at 11:14pm
I think Prandelli is a great coach and he can take care of Balotelli. Prandelli it the man for the Italian squad.Balotelli and Cassano are a great attack.
on the 12th April, 2012 at 10:47pm
It is obvious that Italy has a strikers problem but I have a good feeling about
having Antonio Cassano and Fabio Quaglierella as two strong talented strikers.
Cassano is super talented and Quagilerella has the winning spirit which is very important for Italy at this stage, he deserves a call up. Also pick 4 from( Balotelli, Osvaldo, Giovincho, Borini, Di Natale,El Shaaraway). No Matri, No Pazzini, Forget Gilardinio & Rossi.
on the 12th April, 2012 at 10:24pm
take the best player or lose. Italy coachs have made a history of ignoring great frowards or limiting there callups both Baggio and Zola were often ignored. Pick Mario or it is 2006 all over again when Lippi ignored Cassano and went out during the group stage. Leo, Chicago
on the 12th April, 2012 at 10:00pm
I didn't mention Giovinco before because I don't really consider him a striker. I know he is doing well for Parma in a more advanced role but in this squad he'll be used as a trequartista or wide forward. Balotelli is the only inform No.9 striker Italy can rely on at the moment (his record is like 17 in 30 odd games isn't it?), he needs to be selected, even if it is a case of peeking nervously through face covered hands and hoping for the best.
on the 12th April, 2012 at 9:32pm
Acctually Balo is a good guy, and really supper killer, we need support him for Italy squad. Without Balo this Italy squad would not achieve no result in Euro Champion competition
on the 12th April, 2012 at 7:59pm
If Cassano and Rossi are not fit enough or in any form in time for the Euros I think that we're going to have real problems upfront if we don't pick Balotelli. Di Natale would be a sure bet, but Pazzini has showed no real form this season, Matri and Quagliarella are good players but they are hit and miss in front of goal, Osvaldo and Borini are inexperienced and unproven, Borriello and Gilardino are has beens, Amauri is out of practice and Del Piero and Totti were the past.
on the 12th April, 2012 at 7:01pm
He's a gamble worth taking I reckon. He always talks about his love for the national team, but he never speaks such words about Man City which makes me think that we would see a more pasionate & mature Balotelli in Poland/Ukraine... He will probably go and do a Beckham '98, but I would definitely take him even if we use him as an impact player.
on the 12th April, 2012 at 6:43pm
I think most of the hype over what Mario does or doesn't do is a product of the media - specifically the brit tabloids. Everything is blown out of proportion .
Like Mancio himself said - there are alot worse things that go on in PL, yet no great attention is brought to it, specifically if it has anything to do with the brit players.
Mario is not liked by the majority of the so called pundits there, so they lay into him at any givern opportunity. Let's not do the same here.
on the 12th April, 2012 at 5:26pm
Anyone supporting Balo's inclusion is deluded, besides his poor discipline record & poor reliability, the guy doesn't track back & doesnt put his bit in for his team, only when he see's a goal is he interested. In a team like Italy we need all the legs we can get out of the strikers; Giovinco is fitter & quicker, Rossi & Cassano as skillful, Quali can hit better goals from range, Matri can poach as well & is better in the air. We can make up for Balo with any of these players who give their all!
on the 12th April, 2012 at 5:14pm
If Rossi and Cassano are not entirely fit, we should bring Borini, Osvaldo, Di Natale and Giovinco. If Quagliarella turns his fortunes around, I would love to have him as well.
on the 12th April, 2012 at 4:49pm
If I was Prandelli, I'll take Balo with but use him as a super sub. Like Cassano in his younger days, they extremely talented but unpredictable at the same time.
on the 12th April, 2012 at 4:47pm
it's been our curse for years. how many times have Italy turned up to a tournament without 1 or more of its best players for reasons other than football, it's a disgrace and it has doubtless cost us trophies (imagine how USA 94 final might have gone with Mancini and Vialli present), it never seems to happen to anyone else, at least not on our scale. makes me sad because after Cassano he's the most talented player we have, he is capable of skill most peoples brains can't even understand..
on the 12th April, 2012 at 3:59pm
Leave Mario at home. Bring in the class of Del Piero. He may not have the legs to be a starter anymore but can be the supersub Italia needs.
on the 12th April, 2012 at 3:48pm
These are the choice of Italian Strikers who might be bought to Euro 2012
Antonio Cassano
Giuseppe Rossi
Giampaolo Pazzini
Sebastian Giovinco
Pablo Daniel Osvaldo
Alessandro Matri
Alberto Gilardino
Fabio Borini
Mario Balotelli
Antonio Di Natale
Fabio Quaglierella
Stephan El Shaaraway
on the 12th April, 2012 at 3:25pm
We act and speak of this man as if he is italy' only hope of winning, he's not a big match player, he's useless. Did anyone see man city wednesday nite? They play so much better without him on the pitch and prandelli needs to take note and leave him out the squad. Balotelli is defacing italian football, I hope man city leave him out and prandelli leaves him at home! He shouldn't be allowed to be a footballer with an attitude like that, he's mentally unstable and a danger to all!
on the 12th April, 2012 at 3:15pm

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