As Mario Balotelli trotted around Arsenal’s pristine Emirates pitch last Sunday, floating lazily through the game, only making his mark on proceedings when driving his studs into various areas of the opposition, it makes you wonder what a horrible job Prandelli sometimes has.
After Cesare’s imposed disciplinary scheme based on meritocracy and good behaviour began when he took over as manager, the Azzurri boss has had no qualms following through; dropping Daniele De Rossi after the Roman spent the latter half of the 2010/11 season elbowing members of the Bari team in the face, he has been praised for his uncompromising attitude in punishing big name stars; including our very own Balotelli.
I would like to bet that Prandelli has on average spent more time warning Balo on his “conduct” in his press conferences than he does spend talking about any other subject related to his job. However, the Mancini-Prandelli “good cop-bad cop” paradigm that appears to be in effect at the moment has not stopped Mario starting fights with opposition, teammates, travelling to Milanese nightclubs(because clearly the Mancunian equivalent just aren’t good enough) and ignoring all written and commonly understood logic and allowing friends to set off fireworks in his bathroom.
The last of these misdemeanours(which if you believe the British Tabloids, is quite a list) was the aforementioned Arsenal game, where it seems Mario and Manchester City as a whole threw their title challenge away due to a collection of tired and seemingly lackadaisical performances, most notably Balotelli, who managed to get himself sent off again after getting away with a tackle worthy of a red card on its own.
It is evident that Balotelli heeds no warning. He has obviously apologised, because that’s what his agent told him to do, but he has arguably played his last game for Manchester City after a series of increasingly tepid and disappointing displays that have slowly unravelled his club’s aspirations this season.
Which puts Prandelli in a bit of a pickle. With the Euro’s fast approaching, Prandelli is still short of Guiseppe Rossi and Antonio Cassano, the former still having not stepped on a pitch this calender year, while the later having only seen a handful of minutes since being sent to hospital with a heart condition in November. Can Prandelli really afford to go without another potentially world class striker, especially by choice? If I were Prandelli, depending on Alessandro Matri, Giampaolo Pazzini and Pablo Osvaldo to lead the line in June would send shivers down my spine.
That being said, if he doesn’t – he undermines the very philosophy he has built his stint at the Azzurri on, potentially pissing off his entire squad and opening himself up to mass criticism; especially if the tournament isn’t a successful one. Why is Balotelli special? The cry will rankle around Il Mister’s ears.
The question is, does he stick? Or twist?
He’s damned if he does, and damned if he doesn’t. Is it better to be on the right hand of the devil or in his path? Do I know anymore of these ambiguous statements? Probably.
Either way, Prandelli is in trouble. The last man on the planet you’d want your career to depend on is Mario Balotelli. You just hope he does what’s right.
Sam is on Twitter. He does know more ambiguous statements, if that’s what you like.
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