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Derby Icons: Mario Balotelli

As we build-up to the 172nd Manchester derby, ManCity.com examines some of the sky blue icons from the fixture in years gone by…

In the second of our series looking at City players who claimed iconic status during the Manchester derby, we turn to the one and only, Mario Balotelli...

The player…

Mario Balotelli

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Cult heroes don't come much bigger than Mario Balotelli.

For much of his career, Mario has been something of an enigma wrapped in a mystery, promising so much but not always finding his best form. At Inter Milan, he was a precocious talent who drove his manager to despair, but he scored goals and was popular for some of the time.

At AC Milan - his boyhood idols - he impressed and frustrated in almost equal measure, unable to keep his off-field antics separate from those on it and his time at LIverpool was largely miserable.

Mario, however, was made for City. Unpredictable, sometimes brilliant - sometimes not - but the supporters loved him and all his imperfections.

When his picture was flashed on big screens at the Etihad shortly after he joined Liverpool but was ineligible to play, a roar of appreciation went up from the home fans and his song was sang moments after.

Mario was a flawed genius, capable of the most audacious moments of skill or, as his pirouette in Los Angeles proved, moments of madness - but these were the reasons the City fans took him to their hearts.

He delivered for City with 30 goals in 80 games and played his part in the 2011/12 title win with his return pass to Sergio Aguero setting the Argentine up for that goal.

And, of course, the previous October he left his mark in the 2011 Old Trafford derby...

  

The Moment…

Old Trafford, 23 October 2011

United had started well as the first half reached its halfway point but City were bright and lively. The first goal was always going to be crucial and it was the Blues who struck first, though the moment would become immortal for the celebration perhaps more than the goal itself.

James Milner worked his way into the box and pulled the ball back into the middle. David Silva stepped over the cross and Balotelli swept home a low drive that was perfectly weighted and angled to beat David De Gea. 

As soon as the ball hit the back of the net, Mario turned around to face the TV cameras and lifted his shirt to reveal the message 'Why always me?' underneath. It was typical Balotelli and his way of answering the headline writers who rarely had him off the back pages.

Of course, the City fans lapped it up and the Blues then proceeded to rip the Reds apart with Mario's second after the break helping Roberto Mancini's side on their way to a 6-1 win.

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In his own words...

Mario said little or nothing of the game, preferring to keep his counsel in case his words were used in a more 'imaginative' way.

The BBC's Phil McNulty summed up the moment, however: "And it was against the run of play that City took the lead after 22 minutes, courtesy of a stroke of casual quality from Balotelli. Silva was the creator but Balotelli, given too much time and space by Evans, finished sublimely with a stroked finish into the bottom corner. Balotelli, in recognition of those latest chaotic events in his personal life, then revealed a T-shirt bearing the slogan "Why Always Me?". Despite the evident good humour of Balotelli's gesture, he was booked by referee Mark Clattenburg."

 

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