As a neutral fan in the Premier League, Mario Balotelli’s return to the Premier League is great news for me. He is constantly hitting the headlines, has an incredible amount of confidence and arrogance which is almost funny, whilst he is also a very skilled footballer, which some people often fail to remember.
Liverpool’s new £16 million signing scored 28 goals in 86 games for Inter Milan, 30 goals in 80 games for Manchester City and 30 goals in 54 games for AC Milan. On top of that, he has 33 appearances for the Italian national team, notching 13 times.
Obviously these stats don’t set the world alight and don’t live up to the scoring tallies of the likes of Messi and Ronaldo, but I don’t think these are bad figures for a striker, especially one who often misses games through suspension.
It is Mario’s crazy antics that make him one of my favourite footballers, and one that makes me smile whenever I see him play or in a newspaper story. Balotelli doesn’t do ordinary. Here are my favourite five of the Italian’s crazy stories.
He stopped at a local high school, used the bathroom and left
You know the feeling. You’re in the car and are desperate for the toilet but home is too far away and there is no where in sight you could go.
Balotelli had this feeling in January 2012, but instead of being patient and waiting, he decided to pop into a school in Manchester – Xaverian College. He used the toilet before talking to students in the canteen and walking into the teachers’ staff room.
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.”
Student Edward Gasson, 18, was sitting in the canteen with friends when Balotelli walked in.
He commented: “Balotelli parked his Bentley outside then came in and was asking where the toilets were, then he went to the teachers’ staff room. After that he was just walking round campus like he owned the place and everyone was following him around. I’m a City fan so it was amazing to see him but it was a bit ridiculous for him to come here – you would never expect it to happen.”
He had a mock sword fight at an Indian restaurant while violating curfew
Balotelli stayed out until the early hours of a Sunday morning in December 2011 enjoying an Indian meal with friends, less than 48 hours before Manchester City’s crucial clash with Chelsea.
The Italian ignored the strict rules put in place by boss Robert Mancini to visit the popular Zouk restaurant in Manchester City centre. This in itself meant he was handed an £150,000 fine. So effectively he had to pay £150,000 for a curry. I wonder whether it was worth it.
He might have been able to keep his curry quiet had the striker not then staged a mock sword fight with a friend – using a rolling pin as his weapon.
Roberto Mancini failed to see the funny side but did start Balotelli in City’s trip to Stamford Bridge where Mario opened the scoring in the second minute in a 2-1 loss.
He burned down his bathroom after shooting fireworks from his window
Perhaps the most well-known story on this list is also possibly the most hilarious and idiotic.
On the eve of the Manchester derby in October 2011 (which Balotelli scored twice in as City won 6-1), the striker and four of his friends were setting off fireworks in his bathroom, yes his bathroom, when one hit a bath towel and caught fire, causing his whole house to go up in a blaze.
The fire department came at around 1 a.m, and Balotelli escaped unhurt, but the building sustained serious fire and smoke damage. He is said to have been reluctant to leave his belongings and, at one point, to have run back inside to recover a quantity of money and a suitcase.
The striker had to spend the remainder of the night and later that month fronted a firework safety campaign in Manchester, despite being the last player you would have though would do so.
He “pranked” youth players by throwing darts at them
Manchester City described this incident in March 2011 as a ‘prank’, but it sounds far from it.
It came just a week after he was sent off in the Europa League against Dynamo Kiev for sending a ninja-like kick in the direction of a player from the Ukrainian club and was subject to a disciplinary enquiry by UEFA.
By throwing darts at City’s youth team players, City also launched a disciplinary enquiry on him.
The People report the then 20 year old threw the darts from a first-floor window because he was ‘bored’ but City have insisted no player was hurt in what they described a ‘prank’ rather than anything malicious.
A club spokesman said: “The matter will be dealt with internally.” and Balotelli was fined $100,000 for the incident.
He was caught trespassing at a women’s prison in Italy
Finally, the most random incident. I know they have all been random, but this might just be the weirdest of the lot.
In October 2011, he and his brother Enock tried to drive into a women’s prison in Brescia, Italy. Unsurprisingly, they weren’t allowed in and faced half an hour of questioning before eventually being released.
Explaining the situation, a prison officer Calogero Lo Presti explained, “It was 1600 when we saw a high-powered Mercedes come through the gate. Inside were two boys, after a few minutes we realised one of them was Balotelli.
“Physically we recognised him, but that is not enough, so we proceeded with official procedure. At the end they both appeared a bit frightened. They said they saw the gate opened and never imagined they would need a special permit to visit the prison. The two were particularly intrigued by the fact it was a women’s prison.
“Balotelli has apologised. He spoke in a low voice, he was a little embarrassed.”
On the incident, the striker told Italian TV: “I told my brother: ‘Do you want to see a prison? Then I went in.”
You wonder why City kept him for two and half years when you remember all of the crazy things he did, but Liverpool will hope he has matured since his last spell in England as Balotelli prepares to make his debut against Tottenham on Sunday.