Profile: Mario Balotelli, footballer

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Ah yes, the football season's nearly here again – who's this star striker?

Balotelli (left) is Manchester City's Italian wunderkind; long-time protégé of City boss Roberto Mancini. However, "Super Mario" has been misfiring on and off the pitch lately.

Days after he scuffed a back-heel trick shot in a pre-season friendly against LA Galaxy – and was substituted for his cheek – he's incurred the wrath of his home fans by telling Italian TV that he doesn't like Manchester.

Perhaps not the wisest move. What's his problem with the city?

It would appear he has that most insidious of ailments among big-money foreign players; homesickness. "The city is not to my tastes," he said. "I miss the chance to be at home with my family and with my friends."


Take pity if you like, but 21-year-old Balotelli has a reputation for winding up managers, fans and players alike, and this latest outburst could be intentional agitation after his fall-out with Mancini over "that" back-heel. He had a long-running feud with former manager Jose Mourinho while at Inter Milan, and instigated a minor riot at Wembley last April, celebrating in front of Manchester United fans after City beat their rivals 1-0 in the FA Cup semi-final.

We remember that one. Didn't he give Rio Ferdinand a cheeky wink?

He did indeed, and Rio really didn't appreciate it. Mancini himself had to intervene in the ensuing scuffles. Yet in spite of his fiery temperament, City are unlikely to want to part with Balotelli; he was named Europe's best young footballer last year.