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Finally, Mario...

In the third of our World Cup Gold series, we look at former Blues and their stories from the biggest tournament in sport...

Enigmatic, talented and loved by City fans, we look at the legend of Mario Balotelli...

Player: Mario Balotelli

Country: Italy

Caps: 35

Goals: 14

City appearances: 80

City Goals: 30

World Cup: Brazil 2014

 

 

Why always him?

Mario Balotelli was a genuine one-off.

A mystery wrapped within an enigma, he could entertain and frustrate in almost equal measure and his time with City is best described as 'unforgettable'.

Sometimes, a player and a set of supporters will just bond immediately and with Mario, that's what happened at City.

On paper, it's not quite as easy to work out why he was so popular.

Yes he scored goals - but others scored more - and yes he was a great player to watch, but others contributed more.

Mario was a cult figure and then some.

 

 

Perhaps what most City fans loved was his unpredictability. When he joined the Club, he was the very essence of Manchester City at that time - entertaining, occasionally extravagant but you still never quite knew what was coming next.

He had moments of brilliance - he led the line superbly in the 2011 FA Cup final against Stoke when the Blues ended a 35-year wait for silverware and he scored some excellent goals.

The madness would occasionally result in a red card - against Dynamo Kyiv, his early dismissal was the turning point of a Europa League tie City may well have gone on to win and in the title race of 2011/12, he was sent off again against Arsenal in a game most felt City could not afford to lose.

Off the pitch, he would pop up at the local dogs home or occasionally have a firework display in his bathroom - so the legend goes. Life was never dull with Mario around.

But for all the controversy and the numerous times he drove Roberto Mancini to despair,  there were the flashes of genius that summed up his personality perfectly.

The goal against United and the 'Why always me?' T-shirt and, of course, his part in the goal that changed City's history forever as he held off a challenge and then returned the ball to Sergio Aguero to... well, we all know what happened next.

Moments to cherish from a special player.

Genius, maverick, mischievous but often warm and generous - Mario was all these things and more - that's why he'll never be forgotten by City supporters.

 

Team Celebration

Highlights

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United v City: Director's cut

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World Cup highlights

Mario has only played at one World Cup but he left his own, inimitable mark on Brazil 2014.

Of course, that moment had to be against England! 

 

FATHER FIGURE: Mario and Roberto reunited

 

Mario headed what proved to be winner against England with a header past Joe Hart - the irony wasn't lost on City fans - as the Azzurri won 2-1.

Italy lost their next two games and though Mario played in each match, he drifted out of the national team thereafter and only when Mancini took over as boss earlier this year did his international exile end.

At 27 and with Mancini in charge, there's every chance we'll see Mario at the Qatar World Cup in 2022 - the tournament would be that more colourful if he is part of it, that's for sure!

 

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