Mario Baloteli's move to Manchester City two and half years ago was one of those curious moments for me as a follower of the game. I spent a while watching him play for Man city, without really being able to fathom the "talent" this lad had. I frankly thought it was all a waste of money. I remember him labouring in his tracking back duties last Easter Sunday, when Man city's title hopes took a false dent at the Emirates, against Arsenal. Joleon Lescott in one moment, barracking the Italian international after Walcott menaced with one of his runs on the flank. Balotelli seemed out of sorts in that game. Unsuited, and struggling to do the basics. For someone who came to England with a reputation in his home country for trouble, and not really a starter at Man city, I was bemused by his inclusion in Italy's squad for the Euros last summer, by Cesare Prandelli. Not only in the suqad, but at the apex of Italy's attack. I must say his performance in that tournament had me conceding my optics were erroneous. Mario Balotelli was one of the best strikers at EURO 2012, and his stock rose, if you add the fact that he was one of the top scorers with three goals. His time at the Ethihad was fraught with juvenile delinquency, and moronic tendencies, especially off the pitch. shame most in England will remember him for that, rather than a very capable player. Roberto Mancini, Man city's boss must share part of the blame for failing to get Balotelli's head right in establishing himself as a player to be taken seriously. Before you disagree with me profusely, hear me out... Balotelli's protracted transfer to Milan, and his performances so far, lends us an insight once more as to why managers need to have some solid sort of ideas of what they are getting into when they sign certain players. I have watched this lad play four games for AC Milan since his january move, and you can see from his body language, he is relaxed, comfortable, and acts like a star player. His team mates oblige him : he takes the free kicks, gets served the goal scoring opportunities.... Intrinsically, the club and the manager, Massimiliano Allegri, have in effect implied " go and be the star for us "; and sometimes, that is what characters like Balotelli need - a platform to perform, and players around who would pander to their playing needs / ego. A return of four goals in four games presents the right sort of beginning to his Milan career. Against Inter Milan, last Sunday, Balotelli gave the clearest indication yet, Milan is the right Place to further his career : Playing as a centre forward, he was sharp, focussed, a threat all the time in the air, on the deck, and came up with skills we never saw of him at Man city. At Man City, he was Clown Prince. An embodiment of an idle mind is the devils's workshop. He perceived he was not going to start games, nor play through the middle if he did; and the press had chracterized him in a certain way, and played to the gallery. Milan has challenged him, and I believe he is in the right environment to fulfill his potential. More inportantly, the tactical culture in Italy suits him. Balotelli is not a striker to play down the left, or track back, or made to be the first line for "pressing" defenders. He won't be made to do that in Italy either. That may mean we shall not be speaking of a wayward genius in the future. Hope !!!
BARCELONA VS AC MILAN : First Blood to Milan. Their 2-0 victory was another clear indication of how vulnerable Barcelona's style is to the counter attack. They push so many men forward on occasions, it seems foolhardy. We must applaud their dogma; they have never changed, never got shy. We have seen Barcelona armbushed this way in the champions league by Man United, Chelsea, Inter Milan in the knockout stages, over the recent years. But i reckon they are due some luck now on the law of averages, hence i am backing them to turn the tables on Milan at the Camp Nou in two weeks time. We should remember as much as goals change games, incidents do too. To suggest this tie is beyond Barceloana is something i am not willing to countenance. I believe they will blow Milan apart, and double down on this smash and grab postulation. Having said that, Milan deserve a lot of credit for their discipline, work rate, and ability to put in a very balanced performance in their San Siro victory.
MAN UTD VS REAL MADRID : After Real beat Barcelona 3-1 in the Spanish cup semi finals on tuesday, the press signalled it a warning to Sir Alex ferguson on how dangerous Madrid remain; and Jose Mourinho has it coming for Man Utd.... Talk is cheap. Like i said before the first game, Man utd are not Barcelona, and do not play that way either. If anyone thinks Fergie will adopt a cavalier approach at Old trafford next week, they'll be in for a shock. I see United adopting a sequel to the tactics of the first leg, except an improvement in ball retention and circulation. Fergie has been too long in the game to go chasing the first goal. That's for Real to do, while they look to unpick them on the break. United would look to control possession with a solid shape, and i believe they'll win at Old Trafford. Of course, Ronaldo and Di Maria on the flanks are ever so dangerous. United would be encouraged by how they doused Madrid's flames in the first leg, and once again I feel are better nuanced to take this tie.
SWANSEA'S CAPITAL CUP : Congratulations to Swansea FC for their capital one cup triumph. It was one of the strangest cup finals i have ever witnessed, because you almost knew what fate had in store for plucky Bradford. You knew their fairytale was going to encounter a reality check at wembley. Swansea were too good for them tactically. It snuffed life out of them keeping the ball as swansea did. Swansea players must realise cup finals are not customarily like that. It was so easy, Jonathan de Guzman and Natan Dyer spent time arguing over who would take the penalty to put Swansea 4-0 up. The incident encapsulates how straight forward the game was for Swansea, and pundits were divided on who had the right to take the penalty between the two contending players. scoring a hat-trick at wembley in this cup final had never been done before, which makes me side with Nathan Dyer. I am sure we have most often seen a player on a hatrick obliged the oppurtunity to take the penalty. I was quite shocked de Guzman refused that protocol. Fair enough he wanted to get on the score sheet too; neither can I understand Patrick Barclay, of the Evening Standard, and his enhanced version of events, nor his derogatory charactertization of Nathan Dyer : " it was sad to see Nathan Dyer expose his self -absorption at wembley Yesterday..... Dyer played very well against the League two side and has given some half-decent performances for Swansea against premier opposition but yesterday's display gave a hint as to why his England career stopped at youth level "
PATRICK BARCLAY. MONDAY, FEB 25TH, 2013 EVENING STANDARD.
Patrick Barclay, how condescending of you ! For the record, you are a Jerk. Your extrapolation on Dyer is sanctimonious nonsense. I bet people like you in 1985 did not want Kevin Moran to get his FA Cup winners' medal because he was the first player to be sent off in an FA Cup final. How about a taste of you own medicine.
RAFA'S OPINIONS : I had to watch the press conference on U tube to understand the press reaction to Rafa Benitez's comments after they beat Middlesborough. They made out to be the Spaniad lost a few screws in his head . Calling it a "rant". While i can understand their need to sell stories, I have misgivings on how they have labelled the situation. It makes them educated idiots. Rafa has the balls to say what they, the press, know is true. Chelsea are a psychotic patient dancing deliriously in the town centre. The facts suggest so. Their fans' hounding of Rafa Benitez is like the psychotic patient joined by a self-mutilating ally. We should give him kudos for calling the fans' bluff, and reminding everyone Chelsea is run by warped people. The fans are further making the club haemorrhage.
THE NORTH LONDON DERBY : This Sunday shall be an intriguing one. i hope it does not end in a draw. We need to find out what mettle these two teams have. Have Spurs had an easy ride under the radar, or Arsene wenger's mastery of fourth place finish is about to reach epic propotions, given that seems to be the challenge that turns him on the most. There shall be firewroks for sure : Adebayor's misplaced vendetta, Aresenal's non-defense, Garreth Bale's recent incredible form, the intense atmosphere of White Hart Lane, and the sort of game Arsenal have the potential to win. There will be no hiding place for the losers. Spurs might just be peaking a little too early for their own good. Arsenal know the scent of fourth place, and their manager makes that his claim to fame; So, I err on his side, and an Arsenal victory. If they lose, Wenger's credibility would be at an all time low.