Andy Gray column: Man City never saw the best of Milan’s Mario Balotelli
Mario Balotelli will always have a special place in Man City hearts, but the Premier League never saw the best of him, says Andy Gray
Mario Balotelli will always hold a special place in the hearts of Manchester City supporters, but we didn’t see the best of him in the Premier League.
He showed flashes of his brilliance but nowhere near often enough for him to be considered a successful purchase.
We saw his best performance last summer at the European championship with Italy, when he scored two goals in the semi-final win against Germany.
But Roberto Mancini will be a little disappointed that having taken a chance on Balotelli, he wasn’t able to conjure consistent performances out of him.
All in all, it was well worth having a go. He will always be remembered for creating Sergio Aguero’s last-minute winning goal against Queens Park Rangers which secured City the title last season.
But it was almost inevitable when they had that public spat at the training ground that he would end up going. There was no way he could stay.
It’s best for everyone that he’s moved on. Balotelli’s moved back home and he always looked a little bit of a lost soul in England.
They haven’t lost too much money on him and have removed a huge earner from the wage bill – even if you’re a very rich club that still matters.
Balotelli has gone back where he’s always wanted to play, and that’s at Milan. He now has his wish.
He should be happier now he’s returned to Italy, and if you’re happier you should play better. He’ll do better there than at City.
I always miss good players and personalities when they leave England – and the Premier League does too. We’ve lost far too many over the last four or five years without really replacing them.
We’ll miss Balotelli and his antics, even on the pitch as well as off it, but someone else will come along and fill the bill.
Balotelli’s departure only weakens City slightly, I don’t think it’s that bad a loss. They’ve got enough up front in Edin Dzeko, Aguero and Carlos Tevez.
It won’t affect their title chances. Balotelli only scored one league goal in 14 games this season. That doesn’t suggest he was making a huge contribution.
It’s not like losing Aguero or Tevez, it’s not even like losing Dzeko, who has contributed many goals this year. They should be able to absorb it quite easily.
However, City will need to start finding the back of the net again soon after firing a blank in their draw against QPR.
To be fair, it wasn’t too surprising to see City drop points. QPR beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge and drew with Spurs at Loftus Road.
QPR have shown they’re made of sterner stuff recently but City did enough to win the game, they’ll know that. They hit the frame of the goal and Júlio Cesar made two or three very good saves.
Until we get to the last half a dozen games, I think Manchester United’s lead will fluctuate between four and nine points, depending on who the two teams play each weekend.
Then when we get to the last few games, that’s when the pressure will tell.
But City can’t afford to drop many more points, to be honest. They’ve got 14 games left and that sounds a lot but it really isn’t.
When you’re seven points behind you can only probably afford to drop another two or three to have any hope of winning the title.
That shows you what City need to do – they need to go on an unbelievable run. In saying that, we have to assume United are not going to drop many.