While failed bathroom experimentation may have condemned his pyrotechnic career to the realms of lazy humor, Mario Balotelli’s footballing talent has finally found the greenery most conducive to its belated blossoming.
The frown so intrinsically linked with his controversial endeavor failed to disappear, but in this culmination of careful improvement Balotelli showed that he’s more than just a troublesome ornament.
After years of almost constant indignation, it was easy to sympathize with the forward’s celebratory message. “Why always me?” read his undershirt – revealed just after the first of six Manchester City goals.
As comprehensive as it was, City’s win didn’t do justice to the gravity of likely repercussions. When a revitatlized Liverpool team won 4-1 at Old Trafford in 2009, the expected renaissance never materialized; United’s dethronement put off for another three years at least. City one feels, will not be quite as obliging. Already, just hours after the final whistle, the result brings with it a sense of impending change that, for all the Arab money, had until now yet to be totally accepted.
Preparing to exit the Mancunain war zone, Carlos Tevez must have watched with interest. As England’s most reviled footballing criminal, the Argentine has done much to reinvigorate what was once a most pedestrian rivalry. While his name now evokes a rare unity in Manchester, the antagonism Tevez briefly symbolized will live on; powered by a new cast of characters.
Foremost among them is Balotelli. Two goals at Old Trafford added gloss to a performance of supreme swagger; a masterclass in suave, almost effortless brilliance.
Beyond Balotelli’s fantasy was a sense of reflection between player and employer – an overlap both profound and unique. The Italian’s haughty demeanor seems to have finally evolved from its unstable embryo into a tangibly positive influence. The brashness of early struggles, once a hindrance, now an identity.
So too City have developed. From erratic, almost random transfer maniacs, the side once universally accepted as Manchester’s second team have proved they’re no irresponsible lottery winner, but a collection of savvy footballing and financial minds. Robinho, Bellamy and other early blunders are fast being forgotten in light of recent successes.
Sunday’s mauling was a landmark moment for both club and player. Reveling in his prominent role, Balotelli is reaching individual peaks of previously unexplored altitudes, while City likewise navigate unknown sporting and cultural territory. No longer the butt of jokes, Mario’s Mancunian journey might just be a lasting one, and City’s fast track to success more feasible than previously assumed.
In his somber post-match evaluation, Sir Alex Ferguson called the defeat “the worst result in my history” but he’ll know only too well that worse for United may lie in wait. Now mature, now settled City are here to stay – their footballing advancements correlating directly with an introvert’s startling upturn. In Mancini’s extravagant garden, Balotelli has found room to sprout. And while gruesome Gareth Barry shaped gnomes still assault the eye, the overarching image is positive; its message one of a confidence that is hardly misplaced.