Mario Balotelli, best known for his antics off the field, has duly entertained his fans when on it. A footballer with an extravagant sense of humour, the 30-year-old has never shied away from breaking into the headlines wherever he has played.
Having represented the likes of Inter, AC Milan, Manchester City and Liverpool, the Italy international currently plies his trade with the Serie B side, Brescia, and on the day when he celebrates his 30th birthday, we take you down to the memory lane to look back at some of the most bizarre moments of his playing career.
‘Mario, don’t touch anybody’
Back in 2012, former Inter manager Jose Mourinho unearthed a priceless moment related to the Italian. The Portuguese gaffer, while speaking to CNN’s Pedro Pinto, revealed how he spent the most of his half-time team talk begging to Balotelli, who was on a yellow, to not harm anybody.
“I remember one time when we went to play Kazan in the Champions League. In that match I had all my strikers injured. No Diego Milito, no Samuel Eto’o, I was really in trouble and Mario was the only one.
“Mario got a yellow card in minute 42 or 43, so when I got to the dressing room at half-time I spend about 14 minutes of the 15 speaking only to Mario.
“I said to him: ‘Mario, I cannot change you, I have no strikers on the bench, so don’t touch anybody and play only with the ball. If we lose the ball no reaction. If someone provokes you, no reaction, if the referee makes a mistake, no reaction. Mario - please’.
“Minute 46 – red card!”
Note that it wasn’t until the 60th minute that Balotelli was sent off. Mourinho might have missed the exact minute, but the story is indeed worth remembering.
‘Why Always Me?’
Balotelli, since joining Manchester City in 2010, endured a turbulent life in England. The Italian once clashed with his then manager Roberto Mancini and even threw a dart on one of his teammates ‘because he was bored’.
All that, however, was overshadowed by his sumptuous performance against City’s noisy neighbours, Manchester United on their own turf. The Cityzens visited Old Trafford in October 2011, and Balotelli not only opened the scoring, but went on to bag a brace. That wasn’t the highlight of his performance though. Scoring the opener in the 22nd minute, the Italian pulled up his jersey, and revealed a t-shirt that said, "WHY ALWAYS ME?". While everyone chuckled at it, the phrase actually had a deeper meaning to it. In simpler words, it was a voice against how he is always misunderstood.
‘THAT Back-Heel Though!’
In Manchester City’s pre-season tour of 2011, Mancini squared off against LA Galaxy. City had already opened the scoring and had the chance of doubling their advantage when Balotelli went through on goal. The Italian, with only the keeper to beat, decided to pull off a showboating back-heel, which, as it turned out, was utterly humiliating.
Reacting to his action, Mancini took him off as soon as the opportunity arose. Reacting to it, the 30-year-old opened up on an Instagram post and said, "I thought I was offside!”
"And plus, listen to the whistle before I could even shot! [sic] That's why I did it."
Celebration Worth A Meme
Italy took on Germany in the semi-finals of Euro 2012, and it was Mario Balotelli who turned out to be the man of the hour. Having opened the scoring in the 20th minute with a superb header, the striker doubled Italy’s lead with an absolute thunderbolt and matched it with an equally stunning celebration.
The striker pulled off his shirt, stood bare-chested and showed off his muscular physique, which sparked a series of memes on the internet for years.
Tweet About The Queen Of England
England needed a little favour from Italy during the group stages of the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Having lost two back-to-back games of the round, they needed Balotelli’s Italy to fend off Costa Rica, and the striker was duly looking forward to delivering so much so that he asked for a favour in return himself.
“If we beat Costa Rica I want a kiss, obviously on the cheek, from the UK Queen,” tweeted the Italian.
If we beat Costa Rica i want a kiss,obviously on the cheek, from the UK Queen.😂😂😂.— Mario Balotelli (@FinallyMario) June 19, 2014
It didn’t matter in the end though as Costa Rica ended up defeating Italy, which not only knocked England out of the tournament, but also ended the Italians’ journey.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Patrik Stollarz