Try To Ignore Mario Balotelli. I Dare You

Why IS it always Balotelli? Missed in the stupefying events of extra time vs. QPR was Mario’s super touch to free Khun Aguero for the Prem-deciding tally. His insertion at 75 minutes, or whenever it was exactly, surely rolled millions of eyeballs around the world. Yes, Roberto Mancini should be applauded for swallowing his pride and running out both Mario and Carlos Tevez after saying they’d never play for the club again. But Balotelli has, by turn, been a moribund and distracting force in 2012. There was no reason to play him. Only desperation-laced necessity brought him on Sunday afternoon, late, along with Dzeko, against 10-man Rangers. But few men can so effectively and quickly put to rest all the psycho-vainglorious-marketing issues we might have with the guy. (Joey Barton should be so lucky). Whatever the packaging, Balotelli makes it happen. His possession at the top of the box, his lunging toe-poke to Aguero… Both touches were brave and deft. (All credit to the Argentinean for exhibiting the cool not to shoot straight away; Taye Taiwo would surely have been blocked it.) Balotelli has again shown himself to be that rare footballer who at once repels and attracts us neutrals. It’s not always him. It’s just that he’s so very good enough, often enough, that we genuinely want to see what he does next.

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