How much trouble is talent worth?

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Balotelli causing a ruckus

By Eric Wilkins, Staff Writer

Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli is, to put it moderately, a handful. The Italian decided to kick off the first week of January with a hard tackle on Scott Sinclair in practice; this led to manager Roberto Mancini dashing in to get Balotelli off the pitch, only to end up in a bit of a scuffle. Needless to say, the incident was all over the papers. With the transfer window being open until the end of the month, the rumour mill immediately got started on the possibility of a move.

And when Mancini got his chance to speak to the media and voice his public disgust at the immature behaviour of the talented striker, he, just like Balotelli’s play this year, failed to produce. The City manager said that the event was actually quite minor and the pictures made it look a lot worse than it was. No threat of Balotelli being sold. No mention of a fine. Not even a benching. Though Sinclair didn’t, Balotelli got off Scott-free.

Mancini’s response mystifies me. Even if this particular episode is as innocent as he purports it to be, there has been a general lack of disciplinary action taken against Balotelli since his arrival at the Manchester club. The troubled Italian has, among other things, picked up four red cards, crashed his car, had fireworks go off in the bathroom of his house, fought with teammates, and thrown a dart at someone in his two and a half years. My personal favourite was when Manchester City was playing the LA Galaxy in a pre-season game. Balotelli had an opportunity for a clear shot on goal, but he instead chose to spin and backheel…wide. Mancini, to his credit that day, took the failed showboater off the pitch right away.

The 22-year-old player has a nose for trouble, and it’s hard to see why the club hasn’t kicked him to the curb yet. Yes, there’s definitely talent there; his brace at the World Cup proved that. But is that talent worth putting up with all the negatives that come with it? His talent has also failed to manifest itself for the Citizens this season. In 13 Premier League games, Balotelli has all of one goal to his name.

You have to think that Mancini is being muzzled a bit by the upper brass. His outbursts of emotion seem far too frequent and genuine to simply chalk it up to being Italian. There’s a good chance Mancini doesn’t like Balotelli and wants him out of town, but the owners are of the opposite mindset. After all, while the striker is constantly finding himself in trouble, he is making headlines. Any publicity is good publicity? Man City seems to think so.