And so the move of the summer finally came to fruition. Prodigious 20 year old Internazionale striker Mario Balotelli has winged his way from Milan to Manchester to complete the formality of a medical and sign a dotted line to make him financially secure for the rest of his life – all that is missing now is a sky blue carpet at Manchester Airport and a royal greeting from Shiekh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
Aston Villa’s James Milner will inevitably follow suit – although in this era of the “Carbon Footprint” it is doubtful he will be flying – and thus, City’s spending will (hopefully) be complete.
So how will Balotelli fare with the self-appointed title and champions league spot contenders? At the risk of being lynched by the more fanciful of City fans, your humble author believes that the future for the young striker may not look as rosy (or blue tinted) as many would expect.
The competition for places at Eastlands is perhaps second only to that of journalism jobs for the BBC. With more experienced players such as Carlos Tevez and Emmanuel Adebayor already leading the line, there is little time for off colour performances as City look to get off to a flyer, with tough games against Tottenham and Liverpool to come.
Although being a player and a manager are entirely different prospects, the departure of Steve Coppell as Bristol City manager after only one game (a 3-0 home defeat to Millwall) is testament to how quickly things can go downhill for what once seemed like a good venture.
Furthermore, City are building something of a “hall of shame” for their big money signings. Since snubbing Chelsea in 2008, Robinho was supposed to be the saviour who would bring the Premier League title across Manchester and into the dust gathering Eastlands trophy cabinet. However, his move to a city famed for its regular soakings, from Spain’s sunnier climes, has evidently caused some distress.
Throughout his second (2009-10) season, the £32m Brazilian front man was consistent only in his underachievement after a return from injury, with just a single goal in the FA Cup against Scunthorpe to account for 12 appearances. Occasionally throughout his more prolific first season, Robinho showed a below par attitude when things weren’t going too well.
Other notable signings to eventually hit the dust are (to differing degrees) Giovanni, Rolando Bianchi, Joao Alves Jo and Joleon Lescott. Although it would be harsh at this time to label Eastlands as a “graveyard” for proven talents, the emphasis on bolstering the squad as much as possible will leave very little margin for error.
Since young players need to learn the Premier League ropes sooner rather than later in a cut-throat business, the signing of Balotelli may not be exactly what City need right now. Rather, a core ethic of team spirit and a desire to play for a football club, not astronomic wages, is what City are in need of if they are to eclipse Chelsea and Manchester United’s achievements.
Whether this environment suits the passionate and fiery Balotelli remains to be seen, but one thing is for certain, he’d better start banging them in.
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