James Lawton: Mario Balotelli's legal challenge against Manchester City is latest chapter of a mad story

The player has come to represent the game at its anarchic worst

However spoilt for choice it may be, English football does have a chance of defining the limits of its own madness today.

It comes when Mario Balotelli appears before a Premier League panel with the argument that Manchester City behaved unreasonably – and illegally – when they docked him two weeks' wages for the trifling crime of ruling himself out of one fifth of the club's programme because of an accumulation of red and yellow cards.

This, Baltotelli's lawyer will insist, is in contradiction of an agreement between Premier League clubs and the players' union that serial misbehaviour is not in itself grounds for such a huge penalty. Yes, huge. Balotelli's financial loss was an eye-glazing £340,000 or put another way, two and half times the annual salary of the Prime Minister.

The average-earning City fan would have to work 13 unblemished years to match the two-week reward denied Balotelli. It is something the fan might be better off not reflecting upon for fear of that he is not so much supporting his favourite team as contributing to an offence against reason.

Of course in a reasonably hinged culture Balotelli would be told not to waste the time of people engaged in the real world. But then it is quite some time since football in general, and City in particular, could be said to be living in such a place.

It doesn't help that the latest Balotelli controversy comes hard on Twitter claims that, in the year of his outrageous defection, Carlos Tevez earned, after tax and National Insurance payments, a salary close to £5m.

Despite such relentlessly burgeoning wealth, Tevez went home to Argentina for emotional relief and to play lots of golf and tell a TV audience that Manchester was one of the last places on earth where he would care to spend a holiday. After his insubordination in the Munich Champions League game, Tevez read, along with the rest of the football world, that he would never wear the Sky Blue shirt ever again.

We know where that resolve ended and inevitably the whole wretched affair is evoked once more by the staggering suggestion that even now manager Roberto Mancini is reluctant to abandon his mission to save the career of Balotelli.

In human terms, the ambition may be laudable but as part of the working policy of the manager of a football club charged with taking it to the very highest level it can never have looked more quixotic.

If Balotelli's time at City has had any purpose beyond fuelling a stream of bizarre headlines it may be that he has unwittingly drawn a line between mad indulgence and the requirements of a professionally coherent organisation.

Should Balotelli win on the back of some legal niceties today it may just have the benefit of signalling the need not just for tighter forms of justice but also a deeper understanding of a collective responsibility for a desperately declining image.

It is certainly heartening to hear talk of the FA's resolve to both deepen its battle against racism and at last tackle the scandal of unfettered wrestling in the penalty area. Such encouragement, though, will surely be retarded by any Balotelli escape from punishment.

He has come to represent the game at its anarchic worst. His surly walks down the tunnel after fresh examples of his failure to understand the rigours of anything resembling professionalism have become a persistent rebuke to the operating standards of one of the world's richest football clubs. In the end it doesn't really matter how you categorise his offences. Whether they are the product of wilful arrogance and disrespect for a game which has rewarded him so bountifully, or simply unshakeable evidence of a disordered psyche, the result is the same. It is relentless disruption of the team, paid for at a rate of £170,000 a week.

Whatever the verdict, City are obliged to see the outcome as the end of an experiment in trust and faith. In terms of natural justice, they were entitled to deduct not two but 10 weeks of unearned salary. Certainly they must see Balotelli's decision to fight their decision as the last chapter of an extremely futile story.

It is grounds enough for City and the rest of the game to press for stronger sanctions against the worst of indiscipline. They pay the earth and in City's case suffer two of the most outrageous cases of professional irresponsibility.

Balotelli was brusquely rejected by Jose Mourinho on the grounds that some talent, even when it is as notable as that displayed by the disturbed young player, is just not worth the trouble. Mancini took the opposite view and it is one that has never looked further from vindication. His painful lesson is one which must be heeded by all sections of the game.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen
Secrets of comedy couples: What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?

Secrets of comedy couples

What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?
Satya Nadella: As Windows 10 is launched can he return Microsoft to its former glory?

Satya Nadella: The man to clean up for Windows?

While Microsoft's founders spend their billions, the once-invincible tech company's new boss is trying to save it
The best swimwear for men: From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer

The best swimwear for men

From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer
Mark Hix recipes: Our chef tries his hand at a spot of summer foraging

Mark Hix goes summer foraging

 A dinner party doesn't have to mean a trip to the supermarket
Ashes 2015: With an audacious flourish, home hero Ian Bell ends all debate

With an audacious flourish, the home hero ends all debate

Ian Bell advances to Trent Bridge next week almost as undroppable as Alastair Cook and Joe Root, a cornerstone of England's new thinking, says Kevin Garside
Aaron Ramsey interview: Wales midfielder determined to be centre of attention for Arsenal this season

Aaron Ramsey interview

Wales midfielder determined to be centre of attention for Arsenal this season
Community Shield: Arsene Wenger needs to strike first blow in rivalry with Jose Mourinho

Community Shield gives Wenger chance to strike first blow in rivalry with Mourinho

As long as the Arsenal manager's run of games without a win over his Chelsea counterpart continues it will continue to dominate the narrative around the two men
The unlikely rise of AFC Bournemouth - and what it says about English life

Unlikely rise of AFC Bournemouth

Bournemouth’s elevation to football’s top tier is one of the most improbable of recent times. But it’s illustrative of deeper and wider changes in English life
A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

A Very British Coup, part two

New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms