Is it because he is young, gifted and black?
Manchester United will win the Barclays Premier League this year and it is all Mario Balotelli’s fault. So Roberto Mancini would like to believe, anyway.
After Manchester City’s 0-1 defeat at the Emirates Mancini has been quoted as saying:
“I hope for him he can understand he is in a bad way for his future and I really hope that he can change his behaviour in the future. He will probably not play in the next six games.
“I need to be sure I always have 11 players on the pitch and with Mario this is a big risk.”
Balotelli does things totally unrelated to football that photographers like to photograph and journalists like to talk about. Yet I’m not entirely sure that based on these discretions, he deserves to to be sold. His antics look so crazy because his team-mates are incredibly dull. I can’t think of any other Manchester City player worth writing about.
He does not deserve to be sold because of his football either, even though the hyperbole that surrounds Ballotelli’s talent generally bemuses me. He is a great player, but Cisse, Van Persie, Ba, Dempsey and the ever-present Yakubu have scored more goals this season playing in much cheaper teams. His team-mate Aguero has scored more too, and Dzeko has scored the same amount (13 in 2011/2012).
According to his statistics, which I had to double check because I couldn’t quite believe it, he doesn’t even have any assists! Silva, who is still young at 26, leads the assist table with 15; Nasri is the next rated Manchester City player. Toure had a terrible game against Arsenal and had to be taken off after 17 minutes. I’m not sure why Mancini chose not to single him out.
Yet, he is not the only Manchester City striker who has under delivered. Santa Cruz has disappeared without trace, Dzecko can’t score away from home and Tevez did a great impression of Michael Douglas’ character in Falling Down by walking out when he had enough.
I struggle with the patronising paternalism with which Mancini and the press refer to Balotelli. He is 21, young in footballing terms, but still a man. Piling pressure onto his shoulders only to chastise him like a child stinks of infantilisation. He is built up only to be publicly and unceremoniously knocked down when there are cracks in the whole City team.
If I was a man, had a glamour model girlfriend, a Bentley in my garage and a trampoline in my living room, I’d find it hard to put in a decent days work in the office too. Balotelli is no worse than most English born footballers who fail at top clubs and find themselves living fairly enviable lives playing for West Ham or Birmingham.
Why are so many obsessed with narrative of Balotelli’s failure this season? The is a more accurate story to be told about Mancini’s man management, his poor choice of strikers in the transfer market and poor away record only the whole squad can take responsibility for.
Is it Balotelli’s fault that Manchester City will not win the League this season? Of course not. He is just getting a hard time because he fits into the category of prodigy people love to talk down to the most: young, gifted and black.