A resolution has been reached, to collective relief at Manchester City, who just didn’t need more of the bad publicity, but it was business as usual where Mario Balotelli is concerned, yesterday. He did not train in the Manchester rain. A virus is his latest affliction.
No one at City was terribly bothered. The most telling aspect of this week’s saga is that Roberto Mancini has barely been aware of it. That’s how peripheral to his Christmas plans Balotelli has become. The word from Carrington is that the player who earns £170,000 a week is not as fit as he could be: it really is as incredible as that. Some of Mancini’s staff have grown utterly disenchanted with the player – a sentiment which has been setting in for about a year. That Mancini should still retain faith with him is testament to the fact that he has staked his own reputation, as well as £24m of Abu Dhabi money, on Balotelli coming good.
For those seeking reasons for optimism about the longevity of Balotelli’s Manchester residence, then there is the curious mutual dependency between manager and player. Mancini will seem like a prophet if Balotelli permanently flourishes, while the 22-year-old needs his boss more than many people realise. Those closest to the player say that Mancini is the individual in whom he has more trust than any other, inside or outside football. Those people feel the striker finds it hard to imagine himself playing for anyone else.
But Mancini’s sphere of influence is not what it was now that Txiki Begiristain is City’s sporting director and Begiristain knows that the Abu Dhabi owners follow the club’s press assiduously and that they will hate the latest piece of disrepute Balotelli has heaped upon them. It runs against the grain of the emiracy’s quest to convey a modern, positive identify for their club.
The feeling that Abu Dhabi was instrumental in pushing for the player to be fined two weeks’ wages has not been confirmed, but that feels logical.
Taking this appeal virtually to the hilt can only have deepened the owners’ dismay and in that respect, yesterday was a compromise; not a new start. It still feels likes curtains, the only element of doubt being whether it will be in January or June that the removals men arrive to take them down from Balotelli’s mansion in Alderley Edge.