There cannot be many footballers who have had so much written about them before they hit the age of 20 as has Inter Milan youngster Mario Balotelli. Yet apart from keen students of Serie A, very little is known about the striker who was born in Palermo to poor Ghanaian immigrants in August 1990. Some of the biggest clubs in the Premier League including the Manchester neighbours and Chelsea have been reported to be chasing his signature for weeks with even his own club now resigned to his imminent departure.
The Nerazzurri are understood to be asking £34m amid the increased interest shown by Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini. The former Inter manager gave Balotelli his senior San Siro debut at the age of 16 in December 2007 but reports in Milan say that United are offering the best personal terms to the Italy Under 21 international. Milan based newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport reports that his departure to England is now almost inevitable with Inter president Massimo Moratti insisting that despite Mancini’s earlier bid there is still no definitive agreement and has left the door open for Manchester United and Chelsea.
Balotelli’s agent Mino Raiola is expected to fly in for talks with both Manchester clubs about a £30m move and the young striker has given both United and City hope as they battle for his signature. He has described Mancini as a great friend but also labelled United a great club after being asked about speculation surrounding his future. Whether Sir Alex Ferguson’s interest is genuine or not is debatable because clubs and agents have been known to generate that type of speculation in order to inflate transfer bids.
With Chelsea also reported to be showing more than a passing interest in the 6ft 2in hit man, manager Carlo Ancelotti was surprisingly quoted as saying that “Mario Balotelli would thrive at Manchester United” when asked if the Italian would be a good fit for Ferguson’s squad at Old Trafford “It’s a club that has a great tradition and brings out the characteristics of this type of player”
Former Inter coach Luigi Simoni has advised the club to hold on to Balotelli. The 71 year old who was in charge of the club for a two year spell in the late 1990’s and won a UEFA Cup, believes Balotelli is a future star of the game. “If I were Inter president Massimo Moratti I would think he will be worth €90m in a few years and potentially a mix of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi” he explained to La Gazzetta dello Sport. It’s high praise indeed from someone who must have some knowledge of the game.
The image of a potential mixture of Ronaldo and Messi wearing the famous red shirt at Old Trafford is enough to make any United fan drool in anticipation but there must be a huge question mark on it ever happening. A transfer fee of between £30m and £35m is likely to be a big enough hurdle for United but when comments like those made by Inter’s Colombia defender Ivan Cordoba are considered, Ferguson may well have cause to hesitate “Mario is up to his usual tricks and it’s not clear what he wants. My advice is that if there are offers for him he should change his attitude because it might help him with his motivation. At the moment he doesn’t appear to have any.”
Balotelli’s background is such that it can easily be turned into a manuscript for a movie. Born in the Italian city of Palermo to Ghanaian immigrants Thomas and Rose Barwuah the family moved to the province of Brescia in1990 shortly after he was born. Two years later the family agreed to entrust Mario to the Balotelli family with the legal move successively formalised in court.
The youngster later accused his biological parents of “glory hunting” stating that they only wanted him back when he became famous. Balotelli was unable to gain his Italian citizenship until the age of 18 because his adoption was never made definitive. It was officially granted in August 2008.
Despite gaining his citizenship and representing Italy 16 times at Under 21 level, Balotelli has been dogged by abusive racist chants becoming the focus of Juventus fans even during games not involving Inter. Choruses such as “a black Italian does not exist” led to Juve being fined twice and the club ultimately punished with a partial stadium closure due to the incessant chanting.
It has certainly been an eventful career for a 20 year old, one in which the next stage may take place in the Premier League. Whether it will be under the Ferguson influence at Old Trafford as Ancelotti suggested or anywhere else, any player displaying the sort of potent talent which a combination of Ronaldo and Messi could produce may rest assured that he will never be too far away from the headlines.
Will Balotelli be a good signing for Manchester United?