WITH a tribunal on the horizon over a club-imposed fine and a rap sheet more distinctive than his mohawk hair style, Mario Balotelli is fast becoming the Christmas gift Manchester City could not give away – even if they offered complimentary wrapping.
Rash tackles, sendings-off, tantrums after being substituted and the infamous “Why Always Me?” undershirt have been the on-field norm for the Italy international since he joined City from Inter Milan in August 2010.
His off-field antics have been as colourful as the cards he has been shown during his two years at the Etihad Stadium, especially his new camouflaged Bentley and his well documented clash with fireworks in his bathroom.
But despite manager Roberto Mancini displaying more patience than a seasoned Buddhist monk, it now appears Balotelli will be sent packing after reports emerged he was disputing a club-imposed fine of two-weeks’ wages for last term’s misdemeanours.
Media outlets say the 22-year-old striker was docked £340,000 in wages when City’s tolerance was finally broken after he received his third red card of the season during a 1-0 defeat away to Arsenal in April.
Neither Manchester City nor the Premier League would confirm details of Balotelli’s hearing which is due to take place in front of an independent tribunal in London tomorrow.
During their Premier League title-winning season last term, Balotelli missed 11 of Manchester City’s 54 competitive games.
In total, he was banned for six domestic league, two League Cup and three Champions League fixtures.
Balotelli, whose internal club appeal was unsuccessful reports say, will be accompanied at the tribunal by his lawyer and a representative from the Professional Footballers’ Association. Legal representatives for City will also be in attendance.
Despite a starting role in the Manchester derby this month, Balotelli was omitted for last weekend’s 3-1 win at Newcastle United with Mancini blaming his absence on the Italian’s poor form.
After he was hauled off early in the second half against rivals United, a frustrated Mancini urged him to start taking his job more seriously.
“When you have a player of this quality you can’t understand that he could continue to throw this out of the window. This is incredible,” Mancini told reporters after the 3-2 loss.
Even though Balotelli’s discretions have riled Mancini, the manager has stood by his player and reiterated that his fellow Italian’s future remains at the club. It was a different case at Inter under then coach Jose Mourinho, one of the best in the world, who has since labelled his former player unmanageable.
“I could write a book of 200 pages of my two years in Inter with Mario, but the book would be not be a drama, the book would be a comedy,” the 49-year-old said in an interview following his move to Real Madrid.
With the January transfer window just a few weeks away, City and Balotelli’s management have the opportunity to look for potential suitors with AC Milan having long been admirers.
But any club taking a risk on him will not come close to matching the e22 million price which Inter were paid.
A relatively successful Euro 2012 tournament in which he scored three times, including twice against Germany to help the Azzurri reach the final, will however go some way to helping prop up his value.
Balotelli’s contract expires in June 2015 and a likely option could be a long-term loan deal with a future fee to be arranged, similar to City’s negotiation with Tottenham Hotspur for out-of-favour forward Emmanuel Adebayor last year.