Friday June 27 2014
What next for Balotelli?

The extent of the criticism of Mario Balotelli following Italy’s World Cup exit may be unjustified, but Richard Thomas believes the forward must be more proactive.

If Italy’s early exit from this summer’s World Cup came as a shock to the Azzurri’s players, coaching staff and fans alike, there was something staggeringly inevitable about Mario Balotelli being singled out as the focal point for a nation’s anger and frustration at the failure of their team. Why always him?

Despite his youthful age and relatively short career, there are already few players over the course of footballing history who can claim to have demonstrated such an aptitude for making headlines as the 23-year-old. Of course, a full explanation for the extent of the hysteria – in some quarters an obsession – surrounding Balotelli stretches beyond mere sporting boundaries and intertwines itself with some of the core political and sociological challenges Italian society is facing today.

“Go and look for another scapegoat,” Balotelli wrote on Instagram on Wednesday in response to an abusive message calling for him to retire from Azzurri duty. “Maybe, as you say, I am not Italian. The Africans would never blame everything on one of their ‘brothers’. Never. In this sense us blacks, as you call us, are light-years ahead.”

It is extremely hard not to feel sympathy for a young man who is single-handedly fighting what seems a losing battle for universal acceptance among his compatriots. It is harder still when, as shown by this impassioned defence of himself, you see he is clearly affected by it.

The fact remains, however, that Balotelli does absolutely nothing to help his public image in ways within his control. Erratic on-field performances and behaviour, an unfortunate tendency to fall out with teammates and Coaches and a colourful lifestyle frequently played out on social media all combine to create the sort of baggage that Inter and Manchester City have already decided they could do without.

The Rossoneri may well decide to do the same this summer, while the post-mortem of Italy’s decisive defeat to Uruguay in Brazil suggests Balotelli rowed with Azzurri boss Cesare Prandelli at half-time before being substituted, then sat alone on the team bus while the rest of the squad waited in the dressing room as Prandelli announced his resignation post-match. For good measure, he was also the subject of some less than subtle public criticism from teammates Gigi Buffon and Daniele De Rossi.

“I really don’t know what his problem is,” Azzurri World Cup winner Mauro Camoranesi said of the player. “Every now and then I did something stupid, but I learned from my mistakes.” Should the stories doing the rounds about the events on Tuesday be accurate, it would merely be the latest example in a growing body of evidence that suggests Balotelli cannot and will not ever change. Young he may be, but can the likes of Jose Mourinho, the Manchester City hierarchy and most recently the Azzurri ‘Senatori’ really all be wrong about him?

On his and his teammates’ World Cup displays alone, it would not so much be harsh as a full-on agenda to hold Balotelli as responsible for the team’s collective failure to achieve the results needed for Last 16 qualification. In a team badly lacking in cutting edge and one in which he was often isolated up front, could he really have done much more than score the winner against England and provide Italy’s biggest goal threat against Costa Rica? As shown by the hateful message to which he responded on social media, there are some within the peninsula who will sadly always target him whether it is warranted or otherwise.

What Balotelli can do, however, is get his own house in order. Fair or unfair, he knows that with the circumstances as they are, he is and will remain under the media microscope more than any other player - if he doesn’t like this fact, he should at least be doing all within his power to ensure things change. At the moment, he isn’t.

By putting in committed displays on a consistent basis, channelling his undoubted talent correctly and displaying a greater sense of responsibility and discipline on and off the pitch, he would go some way towards removing the enormous burden on his shoulders. The problem is that we have been saying the same things for years. He is running out of time and chances.

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Have your say...
After the latest with Balo and the gun picture, either Balo gets a grip really soon or I do not think he has a future in the game at all. 24 is not 14, most experts would say Baloney should be hitting peak form over next couple of years, time to grow up.
on the 21st July, 2014 at 3:23pm
@maldini heir Please please please stop going on about scapegoats and balotelli! My god! Italy wernt great we get it. Our defence was alittle woeful, our midfield was over packed, our strikers were rubbish - immobile let me down but then to be fair to him he was still unfortunate enough to end up on a pitch that still revolved around balotelli! Balotelli isnt what we wanted him to be- he is rubbish. He doesnt hold up play hes holding up evolving this team! He is in the way and I hope he vanishes!
on the 1st July, 2014 at 6:10pm
@ Sanrella Something else I noticed is that usually the teammates stand up for scapegoats. Beckham's teammates did. I was going to put Casillas in goal but in fairness he was actually hugely responsible for Spain's exit. However his teammates have all come out defending him and saying he shouldn't be a scapegoat. I've a lot of respect for the Spanish players who each took personal responsibility. The Italian senior players instead blamed others.
on the 30th June, 2014 at 1:26pm
@ Sanrella Marchisio doesn't quite make the scapegoat team. You'll see the majority of the scapegoats like Beckham did very little wrong but all of the teams problems were blamed on them like England in '98. That's a sign of a true scapegoat. Something I noticed in my research was that the vast majority of scapegoats are attackers. It must be because they're bigger names and usually pretty arrogant. In the case of Italy the most shocking thing is that the majority of the scapegoats are oriundi
on the 30th June, 2014 at 1:22pm
gets booked does that make him a liability? What happens if a player flings an elbow? Both Pirlo and Chiellini did this against Uruguay. Marchisio got sent off for a reckless tackle. But they're not liabilities?

As for the overhyping the only people who overhype him are his critics. No one else including himself thinks he's world class. He said it himself. Maybe the disappointment comes from having too high expectations. My expectations started low so how can I be disappointed.
on the 30th June, 2014 at 1:19pm
@ Sanrella "Firstly he often played his usual lazy disinterested self.Perhaps thats just his style.". He actually covered 20.8 km in 209 minutes. Facts v myth.

"Secondly a ridiculous booking against Uruguay which meant he would have missed the next game.A stupid shirt tug on the defender which might have got him sent off." Earlier in the game either Darmian or Marchisio was running through and got pulled back and there was no booking. So you'll forgive Balotelli for trying the same. If a player
on the 30th June, 2014 at 1:14pm
sick of hearig and talking about balotelli - lets move on.
on the 30th June, 2014 at 1:12pm

Unfortunately my two previous post were edited quite a bit so I failed to get across what I feel is the real problem of Balotelli vs. Italian penchant for scapegoating him. I think the fact that he and his talent grew up in Italian football culture and the more than obvious struggle that part of his life had to endure, says it all about Super Mario. I guarantee you hardly a soul on these pages or within Italy could survive what he tolerated. I know Italy quite well. I've 'em in action!
on the 30th June, 2014 at 9:28am
Maldini he didn't give any drama?Seriously?

Balo failed to many people because he has alot of talent which he didn't use.If a player doesn't turn it on in a big game I don't necessarily criticise him as long as he makes an effort.You can't switch on great play just like that but if at least you're trying then ok but he didn't look to many people like he was trying.

He's just not the player many of us thought he would be.

If any one player should be a scapegoat then Marchisio.
on the 30th June, 2014 at 8:13am
Maldini he failed the same as the whole team but where he failed more was on 3 points.
Firstly he often played his usual lazy disinterested self.Perhaps thats just his style.

Secondly a ridiculous booking against Uruguay which meant he would have missed the next game.A stupid shirt tug on the defender which might have got him sent off.

He failed because he became a liability who looked like he would get a red.He then argued with Prandelli which meant he had to be substituted.
on the 30th June, 2014 at 8:05am
Mario is consumed by all things Mario. He's a liability and poses too great a risk to the stability of the team. The Mario Balotelli era with the Azzurri is over. We need players with heart and totally focused to winning. Players who 100 percent exert themselves physically and who know how to play together. Azzurri 2014 lacked the will, the cohesion, the skills & sense of urgency. All of the other World Cup teams in Brazil showed Italy up. The Azzurri have hit rock bottom.
on the 30th June, 2014 at 4:12am
Balotelli should now play in Canada where all the past great players go to retire & Raiola should follow him to pick up his share of the $200 a week pay cheque he deserves.
on the 30th June, 2014 at 1:51am
@ Sanrella but he didn't fail did he? He just played average. He didn't give his fans what they wanted but in truth he didn't give his critics what they wanted. There was no drama. But the critics pounced nonetheless. He's a scapegoat because he's received more criticism than any other player. The criticism is completely disproportionate to his responsibility.
on the 29th June, 2014 at 10:50pm
Maldini's Heir you're really not getting it are you.
We all wanted Balo to turn it on in the world cup.
We didn't want him to fail so that we could jump on his back.We all want him to be a great player and be amazing for the Azzurri but the reality is he's a waste of space.Totally.A footballer wannabe popstar.

He's NOT the scapegoat.The whole team are.
on the 29th June, 2014 at 8:08pm
As for my own personal views. I hope that Balotelli stays at Milan and continues developing. I actually was quite impressed with the fact that given the difficulties since he's been there he's generally kept his head down. He hasn't sought to blame team mates, managers or the hierarchy (like I and many others have). He's occasionally shown his frustration. At least it shows he cares.
on the 29th June, 2014 at 1:40pm
I always believe prejudice lies somewhere between facts and myth. Precisely why are there so many myths about Balotelli? The truth is that no matter what people think the likelihood is that because of the facts Balotelli will be sticking around for a while. That means sooner or later the public are either going to have to start backing him or else we can forget about Italy challenging.Because with this level of negativity and personal insults its difficult to see Italy building a successful team
on the 29th June, 2014 at 1:36pm
Mourinho has said he'd manage him again. Mancini took him from Inter to Man City. They admittedly had a weird relationship but Mancini fell out with most of the players at Man City. Then no problem with Allegri. No problem with Seedorf (even though other players at Milan have said they had a difficult relationship with Seedorf). And until last week no problems with Prandelli. If its true he argued in the locker room then that's not acceptable. But in truth its one incident in 4 years.
on the 29th June, 2014 at 1:32pm
The Balotelli Myth: Facts v Opinion. He never scores (except for 13 goals in 33 games for Italy), he's a liability who might get sent off (except for only being sent off once for Italy), he never passes (except for 6 assists), he never runs (except he covered 20.8km in 209 minutes at the World Cup), he doesn't take responsibility (except in his own words he is "sad, angry and disappointed" with himself at his performance at the World Cup). As for his relationship with managers....
on the 29th June, 2014 at 1:25pm
Maldinis Heir, your team of scapegoats could play in a match and be refereed by that Ecuadorian ref from 2002, who did make some very dodgy calls against Vierri but wasn't responsible for the ball ending up in the Italian net!
on the 29th June, 2014 at 1:07pm
The worst thing about scapegoating (apart from the unwarranted personal attacks) is it ignores the real problems and actually interferes with solving those problems. So England have had many scapegoats which have helped ignore the fact that they were producing inferring teams as a result of a lack of investment in youth. Now Italy does the same. We do not have the players, we weren't good enough and so we went out. No single player is to blame. The scapegoating of Balotelli is a disgrace.
on the 29th June, 2014 at 12:37pm
The word "scapegoat" means "a person or group made to bear the blame for others or to suffer in their place."

Here's my all time world cup scapegoats:


Jagielka Escobar Upson

Meroni Beckham Johnston

Maradona Seginho Altafini Balotelli

You're welcome
on the 29th June, 2014 at 12:27pm
Zrap 100% agree. Well said! Baffles me what ppl see when they paint this picture of a perfect player! Iv seen 2 good goals in 5years! Sent packing from every club. Milan should have got rid of him before the world cup- I, along with 86% of italy knew he'd flop the world cup and he did massively, so now his market value is even less, mix that in with the fact his own team mates are fed up with him and all the other stuff that comes with him- means even free milan will struggle to get rid!
on the 28th June, 2014 at 10:50pm
I don't see a top team coming in for Balo especially after the world cup.Most teams just don't want all that drama.

I think most people have had enough of him and his antics and when the season starts we will all put him to one side and ignore him.
on the 28th June, 2014 at 9:03pm
CP's decision to leave Rossi at home was magnified by the terrible play of Balo and Cassano. This team looked impotent on attack. The entire Uruguay game we never threatened and against CR we were dreadful after the half. Hopefully Berardi, Insigne, Verratti and Destro can become what we need to return to the top... It was good to see Darmian and DeSciglio make positive contributions too.
on the 28th June, 2014 at 7:12pm
@U.S. Ball,

Balo played in England and was not even a starter for most games at MC. Then he came to Milan and couldn't score other then penalties. Basically, in front of the goal with just goalie. Then we have CP make him the focal point of Italy's attack based largely on what he did for him at Euro 12 against Germany not taking into account 3 years of bad performance. This is why CP is gone as a Manager.

Anyone who thinks Balo or Pirlo played well in this WC please find another team.
on the 28th June, 2014 at 5:34pm
After watching how Neymar was battling in every match, Balotelli looks light years behind the true prodigy! Calling Balotelli as a talent with a pea brain or not is an insult to those who has actual talent. Neymar in a single game ran more than Balotelli did in 5 games, and every time he runs he is threat. His moves are effective and deadly, unlike Balotelli who probably might miss an open goal while doing some stupid trick. This lad need to be drop.
on the 28th June, 2014 at 5:09pm
To become a successful footballer you need talent and a straight and clear mind . Balotelli lacks the second latter . In my opinion that makes him an arrogant idiot with a little talent . Nothing special about him . He has only himself to blame
on the 28th June, 2014 at 1:32pm
I really thought italy would get to the second round it was a far weak side from 2006 when they were champions! Every player in that team were a class above. half of this team looked tired apart from a few and the Costa Rica game they didn't have rhythm in the attack only a few we're playing even italy would have struggled against Most of the weak sides.hopefully they will be a power again soon!!
on the 28th June, 2014 at 12:39pm
US ball Pressure because hes terrible! Its as simple as that! And he does stupid things. He should spend more time practising how to actually score and move and positioning rather than post pics of himself filling up a pannini album
on the 28th June, 2014 at 12:21pm
US ball
If he didnt do such stupid things he wouldnt be in the media! If he shut up and played football like evryone else hed be fine. Modern football is a joke, and its probably ppl like you who think suarez ban was 'excessive', at the end of the day balotelli is a striker who scored little, moves little and basically doesnt do very much at all. So before you judge a whole nation take a look at thw player we are talking about- he looks for problems- hes been sent packing from everywhere!!!
on the 28th June, 2014 at 12:17pm

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