Mario Balotelli has courted controversy wherever he has gone since beginning his career as a professional in 2005.
The Manchester City striker can best be described as an enigma. His off-field exploits endear and enrage in equal measure. There are those at City, an image-conscious club attempting to boost its profile, who must live in constant fear of what will be the next controversy to engulf their player. But since arriving from Italy in August 2010, he has built up a cult following, not just at City but from fans up and down the country who are enthralled by his unpredictable behavior.
This is a young player who refuses to live by the same rules as the archetypal professional player. An individual who has reportedly notched up over £10,000 worth of parking tickets, and had his luxury Maserati impounded on numerous occasions, Balotelli has a tendency to act on impulse and without fear of consequences.
Certain stories concerning Balotelli should be taken with a pinch of salt. Some are fictitious, such as the one in December 2011 about the striker dressing up in a Santa Claus outfit and handing money around Manchester.
Here are a selection of Balotelli stories that have combined to make the player such a box-office hit over the years.
As a 19-year-old at Inter Milan, Balotelli appeared on Italian comedy show Striscia la noticia and was presented with the shirt of the club’s bitter city rivals AC Milan
. The Rossoneri
top featured his name and number and he was later caught by a secret Striscia camera wearing the shirt, much to the consternation of Inter and its fans. The player's agent, Mino Raiola, later claimed the show should be taken as a "joke" and that he is a "boy of 19 who may not understand the consequences of what he does". Balotelli is a childhood Milan fan.
2. August 2010 – The Accident
Just days after joining Manchester City from Inter Milan, Balotelli crashed his Audi R8
en route to the club's training ground. Balotelli was found to be carrying £5,000 in cash at the time of the accident and when asked by police why, he reportedly replied: "Because I am rich".
It was revealed in October 2010 that Balotelli and his 17-year-old brother Enock had driven into a women’s prison in their home town of Brescia. The reason? The gates happened to be open and they were curious to see what it looked like. After wandering around for a while, they were questioned for 30 minutes. The fact it was a prison for the fairer sex was apparently what intrigued them most...
Balotelli was spoken to by club officials after throwing at least one dart in the direction of youth team players from a first floor window at the club’s training complex. Balotelli was quoted as telling several national newspapers that he threw the dart(s) because he was ‘bored’. Nobody was hurt, with City treating it as a ‘misguided prank'.
Balotelli reportedly told Italian prosecutors that he was standing "about 10 meters from a table which contained bags of drugs on it" when he visited an area of Naples renowned for its association with the Mafia. Balotelli said he was in the area of Scampia visiting friends and claimed he was unaware that some of the people he met had connections to the Camorra (a criminal organization in the region of Campania).
Balotelli escaped unhurt after setting his bathroom on fire by letting off fireworks with friends. He told club officials he and four friends were letting off fireworks through an open window. Two fire crews using breathing apparatus put out the flames. The irony is that the following day Balotelli scored two goals as City beat neighbors Manchester United
6-1 in the derby, taking his top off in a celebration to reveal the words ‘WHY ALWAYS ME’ on a T-shirt underneath.
The Italy striker surprised students when he parked his Bentley
outside a Manchester school and asked to use the toilet. He used the facilities before talking to students in the canteen and walking into the teachers' staff room at Xaverian College. A college spokesman told the Manchester Evening News : "Xaverian was delighted to receive a surprise visit from Mario who chatted to some of the students".