It’s often said that Roy Keane could start a fight in a phone box or that Gennaro Gattusso could pick a scrap in an empty room. Well, Mario Balotelli could commence a bloody ruckus in an empty telephone box full of bubble-wrap and soothing whale-song.
The man laps up yellow cards like a cat does full-fat creamy milk and his outrageous behaviour is all pulled off with an ego so large that it was last week spotted by an orbiting NASA satellite. How do you solve a problem like Mario?
Like pronouncing the surname of Everton’s Russian winger, it’s hard to say. Half the task is to appreciate that it’s not all his fault. Armed with the Freedom of Information Act and a loose sense of factual substance, OTP can provide five reasons why Balotelli is unfairly misunderstood:
1. The striker is addicted to the sound of the referee’s whistle.
According to his personal paranormal medium, Darren Fruitloopio, Balotelli was “a sheep-dog in a former life”. The revelation – sourced from an unusual regression therapy session – shines on a light on the big man’s frequent fouling forays. It is also corroborated by the fact that Mario is commonly found on the training pitch “rounding-up the back-four and penning them into the goal-mouth, before licking Roberto’s face off”. Mancini himself accepts that the behaviour is “a bit weird” but that it also “doubles as an excellent cardio-vascular workout for the lad”.
Manchester City have since leaned on the FA to replace the referee whistle with a saxophone to provide a level playing field. In a compromise deal, Lancaster Gate are expected to announce next week that a “trial clarinet” will be used to indicate all infringements at the 2011 Community Shield match. Uriah Rennie – who plays grade 8 clarinet – yesterday tweeted that he would “happily come out of retirement to oversee the historic measure”.
2. Mario is currently in a witness protection scheme.
Having witnessed a mafia hit in Italy as a teenager, the local police gave a chap by the name of Benny Bolognese a new identity. Keeping him incognito has proved tricky given his professional footballer status, but the footballing black hole of Eastlands was expected to do the trick. In a bid to keep any shadowy villains off the scent, Manchester City’s resident barber has been commissioned to provide Mario with a series of ridiculous haircuts on a weekly basis – the blond mohican and the tyre tread to name a few.
When fears of Mario being rumbled were at their highest last December, Greater Manchester Police requested that the striker wear a yellow and brown beanie with chicken-head-like appendages. An off the record Roberto Mancini confirmed that “he may have looked like a prick but along with the phantom injuries and ‘spontaneous’ substitutions, it’s for the best. He actually only cost us £1m from Inter – the rest of the £24,000,000 was spent on safe-houses and hair-dye”.
3. The Man City man is an ardent collector of yellow and red cards
According to an as yet unaired episode of Through The Keyhole, Mario laminates and frames each and every one of the cards he receives. This season has provided Mario with a bumper-crop – nine yellows and two reds in just 20 appearances. Speaking on the subject, Balotelli said: “The collection is ahobby that got out of control. I’ve had words of support from Kevin Davies and Jens Lehman, who have both been through the same thing. Some players like to share shirts, whereas I like to pick-pocket the refs cards after the final whistle. After all, if I’ve been ‘awarded’ a card, I damn well expect to take it home.
“My favourite card is my red against Dynamo Kiev on Thursday. The Europa League red is actually a burnt mahogany red – three shades down from a Premier League red and is actually 2mm smaller in width. It’s all mind blowing stuff. You laugh now, but just you wait until you clock me smashing all Antiques Roadshow records.”
4. Balotelli loves an early shower.
Talking in an Italian magazine last week, he was quoted as saying: “Yes, I let my team-mates down by getting sent-off but there are the perks too. If I’m in the showers before the final whistle, it guarantees myself hot water and plenty of room to stretch out and relax.
“Sometimes while the boys are grinding out the last 10 minutes, I like to run a bath, pop in a bit of Radox and use David Silva’s shampoo and conditioner and just, file my nails. All sorts, really. I even get time to replace the studs I’ve misplaced in the oppo’s sternums. I’m not saying I try to get sent off on purpose but when you are 2-0 up against West Brom, the thought of playing with my rubber ducky is a hard vision to shake.”
5. His outbursts are direct retaliations to opposing players mocking his forename
Balotelli has sought refuge in a weekly self-help counselling group comprising of Mario Melchiot, Mario Gomez and Gian-luigi Buffon. According to City assistant Brian Kidd: “Barely a minute passes by without someone shouting: ‘Hey Mario, where’s Luigi?’ or ‘Hey Mario, I shagged Princess Peach last night – took her right up the Nintendo 64.’ It’s a disgrace… the lad is suspiciously talented at go-karting though.”