Could Manchester City regret selling Carlos Tevez?

Man City have agreed to sell Carlos Tevez to Juventus for about £9m. The interesting thing is that all the reporting of the deal is focusing on how City are justifying such a small transfer fee, a loss of £16m on what they paid, because they save £17m on wages and bonuses.

City need to be compliant with UEFA’s new Financial Fair Play rules. It’s also why they have backed out of the Edinson Cavani negotiations as the price climbs up to £50m. All very responsible, but all caused by strange decisions in the past in the markets. City have essentially had to sell Tevez and not replace him with Cavani because of deals like spending £34m on Fernandinho. £24m on Lescott. £16m on Javi Garcia. They’ve backed themselves in to a corner and now not only do they no longer have Tevez, there isn’t any sign of a replacement on the immediate horizon.

That City have sold Tevez isn’t a massive shock. After going AWOL in the title-winning season his time was always going to be limited. However, despite this, he was a consistent performer last season. Never quite reaching the amazing levels of his 2010/11 campaign, but a reliable presence nonetheless. What is surprising though, is that he has been let go at a time when the game of musical strikers is well under way around Europe. In the spring City were linked with Radamel Falcao and Edinson Cavani. Barring a dramatic chain of events, they’ll get neither. They won’t get Robert Lewandowski and they won’t get Luis Suarez. They didn’t get involved in the bidding for Gonzalo Higuain and Real Madrid haven’t given any indication they would sell Karim Benzema.

Carlos Tevez

Now, in Sergio Aguero they have a truly world-class striker already. Edin Dzeko cost £24m and has shown that he can score goals. After that though, with the departures of Mario Balotelli and Tevez, the four strong forward line is down to two. They have the highly regarded John Guidetti waiting in the wings but do they want to rely on him? City want to win the Premier League and the Champions League, they can’t do that with two forwards. They couldn’t do it with four, let alone when shorn of two of those.

There are still a few options for them to consider. If they wanted to replace Tevez’s deeper creative game, Fiorentina’s Steven Jovetic offers similar qualities, albeit at £20m+. As they seem to be missing out on Isco, they could involve themselves in the bidding for Christian Eriksen of Ajax or perhaps Schalke’s Julian Draxler. Again though, both would carry significant costs. If they are looking for a pure goal scorer, they can look at Sevilla’s Alvaro Negredo or perhaps even David Villa. They may even be tempted to have a look at Christian Benteke.

By selling Tevez, City have gotten rid of an off field headache for themselves, but an on field headache for opponents. By selling him, and in all likelihood missing out on Isco to Real Madrid, they are going to have a creativity hole to fill. As things stand, their quite shallow squad has been made thinner. At the moment, if Aguero is starting with David Silva, Jesus Navas and Samir Nasri behind him, the next man up is Scott Sinclair.

Manchester City need fresh faces but bad decisions in the past make them difficult to get

First things first, Manchester City are not in crisis. There are 18 other Premier League clubs who would love to be in City’s position. For a club that is putting up their first title defence in 45 years to be in second place and in an FA Cup semi-final is very good going. The problem is, expectations of the club have risen exponentially with their status as the most cash rich club in England. Good early season form led us to believe that they would be able to strongly compete with Manchester United in the title battle. However, after a limp Champions League showing their league form has suffered. So, why is that, and how do they move on from here?

City have lost the exuberant sparkle that saw them score 93 goals last season including six at Old Trafford and five at White Hart Lane. They have been grinding out results, but without the extra oomph that they had last year they haven’t been able to keep pace with United. The main reason for this is the lack of flair in the team and the absence of form of the flair that they do possess.

Samir Nasri

David Silva, their impish creator in chief, has been playing football solidly for six years and it is starting to show. He still looks elegant and stylish but he is missing the sharpness and zing of last season. It has bubbled up at times; it’s just the consistency that is lacking. Sergio Aguero hasn’t looked fully fit since his opening day injury. Maybe he was rushed back, maybe he is just a bit hesitant but like Silva he has lost his X-factor. He has looked amazing at times but again, the lack of consistency is frustrating. He is the complete package as a forward, the best in the league in full flight, but this season he hasn’t reached those levels enough. Similarly Carlos Tevez has flickered and started the season in superb form, but hasn’t brought it to every game. Samir Nasri has looked disinterested; perhaps as Roberto Mancini himself alluded to, he has taken his foot off the pedal after wining the league last year. This foursome helped City to play free-flowing attacking stuff last year but for various reasons they haven’t clicked this year.

The issue with this is that beyond the famous four the creative cupboard is bare. Mancini doesn’t have another option to bring on, so when he substitutes one of them the team’s flair quotient drops every time. James Milner, Edin Dzeko and Gareth Barry are good workers but don’t unlock defences. City were beaten to the punch in the summer on Eden Hazard and Robin van Persie, both of whom would have offered Mancini extra creativity and goal threat. They also would have brought hunger and desire to win their first Premier League title. Mancini was openly critical of the club’s transfer activity, and rightly so.

He was delivered Jack Rodwell, an injury prone grinding midfielder, Javi Garcia, another grinding midfielder and the much-maligned Scott Sinclair, a pure winger that doesn’t fit City’s system. Mancini had already shown he didn’t use wingers, which is why they sold Adam Johnson. So they sign an inferior version? They already had Yaya Toure, Milner and Barry and at that point Nigel de Jong, as worker midfielders. So they two inferior versions? You see the issue?

Jack Rodwell

The lack of clarity and apparent lack of planning was a surprise considering City seemed to have shed themselves of the money-wasting tag with the buys of Aguero, Silva and Yaya, who formed the core of the championship side. But they’ve had these issues before. The likes of Emmanuel Adebayor, Robinho and Roque Santa Cruz were bought for huge sums then sold at a steep loss to get them out of the building. Joleon Lescott, Milner and Dzeko have been good players for the club but cost just under £90m combined. That £90m would have got them Hazard, van Persie and Thiago Silva.

City can afford to spend that kind of money and it not to come off. Or at least, they could before they got big. They had to pay a premium to get players to come to them in their rush to the top. Now that they are, they have to deal with the impending Financial Fair Play regulations to compete in their new Holy Grail, the Champions League. The bad deals of the past hang around like a bad smell. They show up not just as huge losses but in huge contracts and leave a stain on their FFP sheet.

What this means is that the club has a small squad of very highly paid players. For a lot of this season they’ve had young players that they wouldn’t want to be anywhere near the first team filling up the bench. Having to dump the signings they wasted so much money on means they haven’t built any squad depth. They are perpetually chasing their tails, replacing what they sell rather than adding to the squad.

This summer is an important one for Manchester City. They’ve got an immensely talented team, and a manager who has shown he can win consistently, but they need to find a way to get him more depth and more attacking flair if they are to get back to winning the league. The problem is, they have hamstrung themselves with some poor decision making and prioritising in their rush to the top. If they re-find their transfer coherence, and there is no reason that they shouldn’t considering they built a league winner on the market, then they have got the financial resource to get back to winning the league.

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Manchester City strike force: What would Van Persie’s arrival mean for Balotelli, Tevez and co?

After securing a last-gasp Premier League title success last season, Manchester City were expected to push on and splurge in the transfer market, as they look to challenge on all fronts next term. However, despite a slow summer to date, Robin van Persie’s admission that he will not extend his current deal at Arsenal has triggered Roberto Mancini’s interest. Although other sides are also circling and Arsene Wenger is by no means guaranteed to sell, what would the Dutchman’s arrival at the Etihad Stadium mean for City’s other strikers?

Sergio Aguero

The diminutive Argentine forward took to the Premier League in his debut season like a duck to water, and scored the division-winning goal in injury time on the last day. Despite reported Real Madrid interest, the South American has pledged to stay with the English champions, and Mancini has no intention of selling him. Van Persie’s most likely strike partner, Aguero is the one attacker at City assured of a place and his future.

Carlos Tevez

Controversial, petulant but brilliant, Carlos Tevez had quite the 2011-12 season. Initial transfer requests, a refusal to come off the bench and a prolonged AWOL period back in Argentina meant that the forward’s time in England looked over. However, after an apology, Mancini reinstated Tevez in his side and the ex-United attacker has stated that he is now happy at the club. Despite this, Van Persie’s arrival would surely restrict Tevez’s opportunities and break-up his partnership with countryman Aguero, which could well lead to more ill-discipline and problems for City.

Edin Dzeko

Despite at times looking lethal in front of goal in 2011-12, the Bosnian has slipped down the Etihad Stadium pecking order and looks certain to be sold. Van Persie’s arrival would mark the end of Dzeko’s City career.

Mario Balotelli

The most interesting scenario of the four, should Van Persie arrive at City real questions over Balotelli’s future will be asked. One only has to look at how the temperamental attacker acted when dropped by Cesare Prandelli at Euro 2012 to see his thoughts on not playing. Balotelli needs attention, to feel loved and to be centre-stage; Van Persie’s arrival would mean a lot of bench time for the Italian, and a pain in the neck for Mancini.

Van Persie would be an asset to any team, and certainly be a signing of intent by City. However, with a number of other big egos and outspoken characters vying for a place in the side’s attack, Mancini’s man-management skills would be stretched to breaking point.

Published – Soccerlens

Manchester City’s Premier League title – Was the Carlos Tevez factor pivotal?

With an epic Premier League title race now finally run and Manchester United licking their wounds while rivals City celebrate, fans of both teams will look back and wonder where and when it was won and lost. For the first time in its 20-year history, the Premier League crown has been obtained on goal difference, and for this reason many will look at the historic 6-1 win for the Citizens at Old Trafford as the ultimately pivotal result.Others will point to United’s poor showing and shock defeat against Wigan, or to the fact that they surrendered a two-goal lead at home to Everton. Vincent Kompany’s header in the Etihad Stadium derby and Yaya Toure’s match-winning display against Newcastle were both massive for City, whilst Joey Barton played his part on the final day also, doing what Joey Barton does. One factor though, in the form of a certain diminutive Argentine forward, cannot be underestimated.

The Premiership has its panto villains and then it has Carlos Tevez. It is impossible, however to understate the impact the South American has made since returning to the team in March – the forward injected life into City’s fading title bid. His individual performances were good but some way off his best form, partly due to a lack of match fitness; the lift to his team though, was huge.

Roberto Mancini was forced to swallow his pride when issues with another problem forward, Mario Balotelli, and a setback in the previous game against Swansea, led to the Italian bringing an estranged Tevez back into his match-day squad for the crucial tie against Chelsea. Tevez, introduced with City trailing 1-0, changed the game. His mere presence on the pitch inspired his team-mates and City won 2-1 with the 28-year-old claiming a sublime assist for Samir Nasri’s winning goal.

The Etihad Stadium outfit continued to stutter in their pursuit of the title, with two draws in their next two games – Tevez featured but was only deemed fit enough for the bench by Mancini. When he did start, at home to West Brom, he scored in a 4-0 win. Incredibly he then bagged a hat-trick in the 6-1 demolition of Norwich at Carrow Road and provided the assist for fellow Argentine Sergio Aguero. Fans in the blue half of Manchester had their title momentum back and Carlos Tevez was the returning hero.

Although the goals then dried up a bit, the striker featured prominently as City won their last five games, capitalising on United’s dip in form to snatch the title. The swashbuckling return of Tevez also had a noticeable effect on countryman Aguero, who began scoring freely in the run-in after a patch of indifferent form. Not only that, David Silva began performing with his early season swagger, Samir Nasri came to life and the doubting supporters rallied behind their side

Perhaps we should have seen this coming given that Tevez has a track record of single-handedly transforming a club’s season. Back in 2007 with West Ham, he was both inspirational and prolific in keeping the side in the Premier League. The forward bagged a series of crucial goals during the relegation fight, none more crucial than a final-day winner over Manchester United.

Sir Alex took note and brought the forward to Old Trafford the following season. During his time there Tevez proved himself as a winner, as United collected silverware, but also as an inspirational team player, earning the respect of the Stretford End with his hard-working performances.

Despite his track-record for inspiration Tevez remains a headache for Mancini. Who can say what the current state of their relationship really is, after a season in which the Italian said the forward was finished at the club, and in which Tevez claimed his manager had treated him like “a dog”? The Argentine has thrown a tantrum prior to his exit from every club in his career and his time at City has been a roller-coaster so far.

It often seems that Mancini is faced with the classic dilemma of can’t live with him, can’t live without him, but the City boss will surely appreciate the ability of Tevez to change the fortunes of a side and the pivotal role he played in finally bringing Premiership to the Etihad.

By Francis Johnston

Joint-ownership of football players; the future or a financial cloak?

Long gone are the days of simply buying and selling players; due to the extortionate amounts of money that football players are worth modern day contracts are intricate, with many different beneficiaries in every deal.

However the latest craze to find its way into European football is joint or part ownership of players. Outlawed in France and England, teams on the continent are starting to share footballers’ rights as a way to profit financially and reduce the risk of buying the latest superstar.

The idea of joint ownership originates from South America, with the majority of Brazilian and Argentine players’ rights split between at least two different sources.

This has spread to Italy, with two or more clubs sharing a specific player’s ownership. It may well make sense for the involved parties, but joint ownership is blurring the boundaries, especially given FIFA’s Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations, which are set to be enforced in 2013/2014.

Part Ownership between club and external company

Many South American players in particular are owned by their club, who in turn sell a share of the player’s rights to an investor. The investor takes a leap in faith in the player’s ability, whilst the club get a lump sum of revenue upon the sale of the rights.

So, if for argument’s sake Santos sold 25% of Neymar’s rights to Company X for $5 million today, and in the summer the striker moved to Real Madrid for $30 million, Company X would be owed $7.5 million of the transfer fee. However, if Neymar opted to stay with the Brazilian club for the remainder of his career, Company X would not be in line for any remuneration.

The advantage for the owning club is there for all to see, as there is immediate investment and the sharing of the risk of a player’s future.

One of the most notable transfers of this nature is Carlos Tevez’s move to West Ham from Corinthians, and subsequent transfer to Manchester United a year later. The temperamental forward is owned partly by Media Sports Investments (MSI), and former company owner Kia Joorabchian is now an ‘adviser’ to Tevez.

All of Tevez’s three transfers to and around England have involved complications due to MSI wrangling with the respective clubs, and West Ham were embroiled in a court battle with the investment fund.

The major downside of this type of arrangement is that non-football involved bodies and people are having a say in the game, and impacting young players’ futures. The player himself becomes secondary to the commercial gains of the owning organisations, with the athlete being traded for profit rather than any emotive reasons tied up within the game.

Part Ownership between club and club

As mentioned previously, this practice is banned in England and France, but is employed in the rest of Europe. Italy in particular has adopted this technique as a key way of negotiating transfers, with a number of players’ fates being intertwined and their ownership diluted.

A key example of two club’s sharing a player’s ownership is between AC Milan and fellow Serie A side Genoa. The two teams have shared rights of over 15 players in the last number of years, with the case of Alexander Merkel in particular relevant.

The German midfielder moved to the San Siro giants but after failing to break into the first team Milan sold 50% of his player rights to Genoa and sent him to the Stadio Luigi Ferraris. However after good performances in Liguria, the Scudetto holders recalled him back to Milan.

By adopting dual ownership, a club, in this case Milan, have a safety net to protect their interests regarding a player. When Merkel was deemed surplus to requirements half his rights were offloaded but Massimiliano Allegri’s men kept the other half in case the midfielder impressed elsewhere, and exacted the option to sign him back if, and when, this happened.

The Future

With the FFP regulations close to being adopted, a clear reading of joint ownership needs to be determined. Clubs hiding behind investors to minimize their assets and therefore benefit under the new compliance should not be tolerated by FIFA, and the financial side of joint ownership needs to be clarified.

Similarly, the increase in non-football based investors in players’ rights is only adding to the influx of corporate and commercial influence in the game, with the players and fans’ interests second priority to revenue.

Published – Soccerlens

With Tevez, Aguero and Balotelli staying, is there room at Manchester City for Edin Dzeko?

Manchester City have played some scintillating football over recent weeks to retake the top spot in the Premier League, with only 180 minutes between them and their first top-flight title since 1968. One of the reasons for this upturn is seemingly the return to the team of Carlos Tevez, and his relationship with countryman Sergio Aguero. However, with Mario Balotelli still in the picture also, what does the future hold for Edin Dzeko?

The Bosnian has had contrasting fortunes during his time at the Etihad Stadium. A slow goalscoring start after his £27 million move from Wolfsburg back in January 2011  saw the eastern European forward go without hitting the back of the net until late April, and had the club’s fans questioning his purchase. However, a blistering start to 2011-12 saw Dzeko leading the City line and scoring important goals to power the club into title contention. The 26-year-old bagged four goals in the 5-1 demolition of Tottenham at White Hart Lane, and scored twice against rivals Manchester United in the 6-1 derby rout at Old Trafford.

There is no doubt of Dzeko quality, if he is given a run of games and is in the right mindframe. Strong, mobile and good in the air, the Bosnian has proven that he can score goals in the Premier League. Roberto Mancini will want four strikers at his disposal, and Dzeko would certainly provide an able deputy to the Argentinean pair and a man to throw on if your team is in search of a goal.

However, amongst a squad of big egos and personalities, Dzeko’s attitude, or lack of it, can go unnoticed. On a fateful night in Munich when Tevez refused to come off the Allianz Arena bench, Dzeko had started the game but cut a petulant and abusive figure when removed by Mancini in the second half – this was slipped under the carpet in light of Tevez’s misdemeanour.

On numerous other occasions this term Dzeko has made his frustrations clear, and he is clearly not a fan of the squad-rotation system. The Bosnian seems to need to be the main man, like he is at international level, to excel, and constantly being in and out of the team breeds frustration and inconsistency.

With Aguero, Tevez and Balotelli all stating that they want to stay with City over the last fortnight, it is evident that there is no room for Dzeko. Mancini would like to keep him, but will not play him enough to satisfy the player. Bayern Munich and Borussia Dormund have been credited with an interest, but City are set to make a considerable loss on their initial £27 million investment.

One feels that Dzeko has been a victim of City’s style and personnel, with Tevez, Aguero, David Silva and Samir Nasri all smaller players that want the ball to feet and to knit intricate interplay. The bullish Dzeko is seemingly not an ideal fit to the Premier League leaders, and will most likely be sold at a discount price by City this summer with the Financial Fair Play ruling in mind.

Published – Soccerlens

Manchester City take the Premier League initiative, but did Sir Alex Ferguson get United’s tactics wrong?

In a tight and nervy encounter on Monday night, Manchester City took the initiative in the Premier League title race with a 1-0 win over rivals and current champions Manchester United. The noisy neighbours are now equal on points with the Red Devils, but are top due to their superior goal difference and have destiny in their own hands. United have slipped up in recent weeks, and failed to really test Joe Hart in the derby clash; did Sir Alex Ferguson get his tactics wrong?

Against a City side containing the attacking talent of Sergio Aguero, Carlos Tevez, David Silva and Samir Nasri, United opted to pack the midfield in a 4-5-1 formation. Although admittedly this limited the hosts to sparing opportunities on goal, it also shackled United’s attacking ambitions and meant that the champions have given City the advantage without really testing their title rivals in the clash.

Wayne Rooney started by himself in attack and largely cut a forlorn figure, as limited support saw the visitors’ main attacking weapon isolated, frustrated and ineffective. Nani played on the right flank and was the closest player to the England international, but the pair failed to effectively counter-attack, and the Portuguese winger failed to majorly contribute or create chances for the lone striker. One feels that Sir Alex had adopted the blueprint of previous seasons in away Champions League fixtures, where Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo were left to try and hit teams on the break; unfortunately Nani does not have the ability or clinical touch in the final third of his countryman, and United’s attack proved toothless at the Etihad Stadium.

In midfield, Michael Carrick, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and Ji-Sung Park fought to limit City’s creative players, and in fairness the hosts’ usual free-flowing play was not evident as a result. However, in possession the quartet failed to keep the ball for any lengthy periods of the game, and the South Korean in particular was guilty of giving the ball away on a too frequent basis.

Most of City’s joy in attack came down their right flank, as Nasri and Pablo Zabaleta found space against Patrice Evra, with the midfield quartet failing to get out to help their colleague. The selection of either Ashley Young or Antonio Valencia instead of Park would have levelled out the midfield, providing more cover out wide and still allowing United to play three in the centre of the park. Valencia has been one of United’s standout performers this term, whilst one of Young’s strengths is to come off his wing and pop up in central positions, in support of Rooney; although both came off the bench, neither was given sufficient opportunity to influence the game.

Ferguson’s frustrations were evident as he clashed with counterpart Roberto Mancini on the touchline, but the Scot’s annoyance was probably down to the ineffective nature of his team rather than the antics of the Italian. United fans will be hurting after City completed the season double over them, but to be beaten without providing an attacking threat or putting their opponents under any concerted pressure will make the blow doubly hard to take. With Young, Valencia, Danny Welbeck, Dimitar Berbatov and Javier Hernandez all on the United bench, such a defensive team selection suggests that Sir Alex played for a draw, or, unlike any United team of recent years, was wary of going toe-to-toe with an attacking opponent.

City have by no means won the title yet, as a trip to Tyneside to face Champions League qualification candidates Newcastle will test Mancini’s men. However, United’s relinquishing of a seven-point lead at the top of the table at the business end of the season will have the powers that be at Old Trafford scratching their heads, and suggests that the Red Devils’ usual collective superiority over the division is no longer apparent.

Published – Soccerlens

Who is to blame for the Manchester City blue moon falling?

After the Premier League games on March 4th, Manchester City had a two-point lead over Manchester United and an 11 goal advantage in terms of goal difference. Now just over one month later, after their 1-0 defeat to Arsenal they found themselves eight points and two goals behind. Who is to blame for this though?

A lot of the attention over the last week has been around Mario Balotelli. There is no doubt that the circus that surrounds Balotelli does not help the team spirit or the harmony of the team when they are on the pitch. His constant neglect of his defensive duties was evident against Arsenal when his unwillingness to defend resulted in constant Arsenal pressure down Manchester City’s left hand side for the first 25 minutes on Sunday. His temper also lets his team down. Balotelli should have been sent off early on against Arsenal for a horrific tackle on Alex Song and of course has already been sent off against Liverpool earlier in the season and was lucky to get away with a cowardly kick out at Scott Parker in the home meeting with Tottenham.

There is no doubt though that Balotelli possesses ability. His record this season of 17 goals in 31 games in all competitions shows that he has potential and his calmness from the penalty spot is to be admired. However until he learns to control his temper and improve his team play he will always cost whichever team he plays for more points than he gains them.

The other player who must take a portion of the blame is Carlos Tevez. His record before the start of this season of 52 goals in 81 games for City was outstanding and his ability to create something out of nothing for himself or for his teammates made him one of the most feared strikers in the league. His refusal to warm up against Bayern Munich in the Champions League would once again have done nothing for harmony in the dressing room. His constant refusal to apologise whilst trying to engineer a move away from the club for the last 6 months would have left a bitter taste in his fellow player’s mouths whilst they were trying to win a title for the supporters.

The man who must take the most blame for city’s capitulation in the title race is Roberto Mancini. Whilst Balotelli and Tevez have both acted unprofessionally he is to blame for giving them both too many chances. Tevez should never have been allowed back in the dressing room after effectively going on strike for the majority of the season and after Mancini said he would never play again.

Mancini seemingly has no Plan B in his locker either. He is far too negative away from home and this has resulted in defeats against Arsenal, Swansea, Sunderland and Everton. Opposition teams have worked out that if you cut off David Silva’s space then Manchester City do not move the ball quickly enough to hurt you.

There is clearly no team spirit in the dressing room which also comes from the manager with players constantly arguing and bickering on the pitch with each other. This is the main reason why City have blown their chance at the title. Whilst even many Manchester United fans would admit City have better players, United are more of a team and have the winning mentality which comes from their manager.

The buck always stops with the man in charge and that is why Mancini may well find himself out of a job in just over a month’s time and City will need a new man to get the blue moon rising once again.

By Chris Newman

An ode to Mario Balotelli: his notorious on and off-field antics (to date)

Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli is without doubt one of the most interesting, but controversial players in the current game. Flashes of brilliance for the Etihad Stadium outfit, Inter and Italy testify to the 21-year-old’s ability, but scandal and strange off-field behaviour have never been too far away in the attacker’s short career to date. Currently suspended by the FA for kicking out at Tottenham’s Scott Parker, here is the flamboyant forward’s rap sheet:

  • Born to Ghanian parents Thomas and Rose Barwuah, Balotelli had a life-threatening intestinal illness as a child that he survived. Taken into the care of Francesco and Silvia Balotelli at the age of three, Balotelli accused his biological parents of ‘glory hunting’ when they tried to make contact with him after he became a professional footballer.
  • Signed for Inter back in 2006 from Serie C side Lumezzane, Balotelli had a trial at Barcelona at the age of 15 but did not make the grade.
  • Made 59 appearances for Inter, scoring 20 goals. Won three Serie A championships, one Coppa Italia, one Supercoppa Italiana and the Champions League in 2009-10.
  • Infuriated Inter fans when he wore an AC Milan shirt in a television interview, was reportedly seen shopping in the AC Milan superstore, and his numerous fallings out with Jose Mourinho blighted his time at the San Siro.
  • Moved to Manchester City in August 2010 for a fee of £24 million, following Roberto Mancini to England.
  • ‘Mad Mario’ has been involved in a raft of motoring incidents; he has been fined £10,000 in parking fines during his time in the United Kingdom, has had his car impounded 27 times and crashed his Maserati sports car within days of having it imported from Italy. Turned the backyard of his English mansion into a quad bike track.
  • Balotelli is not shy when it comes to flashing the cash; when pulled over police the striker had £5000 in his wallet. When asked why he was carrying so much money by the police officer he replied: “Because I am rich.” In December 2011 he dressed up as Santa and handed out money on the streets of Manchester; the same month Balotelli also donated £200 to his local church, before paying for a £1000 round in a bar the same day.
  • Disciplinary matters have blighted his career – Balotelli has been sent off against West Brom, Dinamo Kiev and Liverpool. Fined £100,000 for throwing a dart at a City youth player.
  • Let off fireworks in his house the night before a Manchester derby, before becoming an ambassador for firework safety. Broke a curfew before a game against Chelsea to go to a local curry house, where he was involved in a mock sword-fight using rolling pins.
  • Scored in the said Manchester derby and unveiled a t-shirt with ‘Why Always Me?’ on it; City went on to win 6-1 at Old Trafford.
  • Has been involved in training ground bust-ups with Vincent Kompany, Jerome Boateng, Carlos Tevez and most recently Micah Richards.
  • After City won the FA Cup in 2011, Balotelli said: “This season I have been s***. Can I say that?”, on live television.
  • After he won the European Golden Boy trophy in 2010, Balotelli claimed to have never heard of runner up Jack Wilshere and stated that Lionel Messi was the only player in the world better than him.
  • Incensed Roberto Mancini by trying an audacious pirouette finish when through on goal in friendly match against LA Galaxy in the United States; was instantly substituted.
  • Made his international debut against Ivory Coast in August 2010. Was spotted using his iPad on the Italy bench in a game against the Faroe Islands.
  • Was summoned in September 2011 to give evidence in a high-profile Mafia court case in Italy.

And finally, there was this:

Super Mario is becoming an ever-more important member of Manchester City’s squad, and his talent in undeniable. On the international scene, he seems to be in Cesare Prandelli’s preferences currently, and is set to star for Italy at Euro 2012 this summer. However, most football fans are captivated by the Italian’s unorthodox behaviour away from the game, with the above list set to grow in years to come.

Published – Soccerlens

The £30 million transfer shortlist

With the end of the season upon us, the transfer window re-opens in June and the biggest clubs in European football will look to strengthen their playing squads for the forthcoming campaign. The continued investment in the world game has resulted in transfer fees rising, and there are a number of players that this summer could conceivably cost £30 million and up.

1) Javier Pastore
The Palermo playmaker has had another sparkling season and has led the Sicilan side to the Coppa Italia final; ‘El Flaco’ or ‘the skinny one’ is one of world football’s hottest properties. Real Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus, AC Milan and Roma are all ready to part with £30 million to secure the services of the 21 year old, however this may not be enough as controversial Palermo president Maurizio Zamperini has been quoted as saying he feels the player is worth €100 million.

2) Kaka
With Real Madrid in the hunt for Pastore and already signed creative midfielder Nuri Sahin from Borussia Dortmund, first team opportunities for Kaka may be limited. Since his world record £56 million move from Milan to Los Blancos in 2009 the Brazilian has failed to make the required impact, and is currently playing second fiddle to Bernabeu main-man Cristiano Ronaldo. I Rossoneri president Silvio Berlusconi has ruled out a return to the San Siro, so England looks the most likely destination, with long term admirers Manchester City and Chelsea battling it out for his signature.

3) Alexis Sanchez
The Chilean left sided midfielder has been one of the main reasons for Udinese’s charge towards Champions League football, with pundits raving over the 22 year old’s performances. Both Milan and Inter are believed to want the ex-River Plate attacker, but Manchester City again seem to be the frontrunners, with a £30 million summer transfer touted in the Italian press.

4) Cesc Fabregas
Arsenal’s captain has been linked with a move back to Barcelona for a number of seasons, and the move may happen this summer as The Gunners may look to cash in on the 24 year old whilst he is out of form. With Jack Wilshere emerging this season to potentially take Fabregas’ place as Arsenal’s go to midfield man, a move back to the Nou Camp for £30 million or more could be on the cards.

5) Gareth Bale
The PFA Player of the Year has had a strong season domestically and in Europe, and shot to worldwide acclaim with a hat-trick against Inter at the San Siro in the Champions League Group Stages. Due to Tottenham missing out on the competition for next season, Bale may be tempted by the bright lights of Italy or Spain, with Inter and Barcelona linked with the player. United and City are also thought to want the Welshman to come to Manchester, and given his performances the fee would exceed £30 million.

6) Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Carlos Tevez
Big spending City may find a change of personnel in attack, with any big name departures or arrivals costing more than £30 million. The club have been linked with an audacious move for Milan’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic, whilst club captain Carlos Tevez’s future at Eastlands is under scrutiny, with Inter the reported chosen destination for the Argentine forward.

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