When Manchester City splurged £22 million pounds on the Italian striker Mario Balotelli, it was immediately deemed as a risk. The youngster had all the talent in the world, but his fiery temperament raised questions over whether he would develop into his potential. Balotelli was an easy target, he was somebody who could be easily wound up, which was proven in his first Premier League apperant for City, when he was sent off for scrapping with West Bromwich Albion midfielder Youssuf Mulumbu. The Italian had scored two that day, yet suffered a rush of blood went to his head and as a result, he became targeted and vilified by the media.
Following a much improved season in 2011/12, Balotelli went to the European Championships with Italy after being identified as the man to spearhead their attack. It was a huge call by Cesare Prandelli, mindful of Balotelli’s attitude but aware of his talent. A poor performance in Italy’s opening game against Spain immediately sharpened the knives. Prandelli stuck with Balotelli, though, and was rewarded a couple of games later against Ireland, with the mercurial talent crashing in a fine volley.
From there on, Balotelli’s performances remained strong and he worked hard in Italy’s victory over England. The boy had become a man it seemed, but it was the semi-final against Germany where he really announced himself on the international stage.
Starting upfront alongside Antonio Cassano, Balotelli gave his side the lead early on, thumping a header past Neuer. Scoring in such a high profile game must have done wonders for his confidence and this was a mature performance. Balotelli worked harder off the ball and took up much better positions when attacking, making him almost impossible to defend against.
Soon enough he added a second, timing his run superbly before rifling a shot into the top corner. Neuer didn’t even move, he was helpless. This was a truly spectacular finish, coupled with a celebration befitting of the goal.
Unfortunately his career ended at City a mere six months later, after many indifferent performances and a falling out with Roberto Mancini. Balotelli returned to Italy with AC Milan, but despite a promising start his career has nosedived since he left City. His performance against Germany, however, is still talked about to this day, and we’ve all been left with a sense of what if?