Mario Balotelli is certainly not the first man to fall out with Jose Mourinho, but it is no exaggeration to say that the "Special One" tends to win over the world’s top talents.

Mourinho, who moved from Inter to Real Madrid this summer, has coaxed the very best out of Deco, Ricardo Carvalho, Arjen Robben, Didier Drogba, Wesley Sneijder and Diego Milito among many others. Yet he and Balotelli never quite clicked at the San Siro.

When Manchester City shelled out a reported £24M for the 20-year-old, there was a mix of raised eyebrows and real excitement. And a goal on his debut against FC Timisoara served to keep Balotelli in the headlines.

But with Balotelli, the good and the bad come hand in hand. The striker was in the spotlight again just over a week later when he crashed his Audi A8 on the way to training in an accident that onlookers claimed he was lucky to walk away from. The incident just raised more questions about his character.

Mourinho once commented of the striker: “The guy has incredible qualities, but sometimes does not know how to use his brain. His effort in training is 25%. If it was at 50% he would be one of the best players in the world. I don’t like the atmosphere he is bringing to the team. He lacks concentration and motivation. He must change.”


As a two-time Champions League-winning manager, Mourinho’s opinion cannot be ignored. His league titles in Portugal, England and Italy only strengthen, his case.

City midfielder Patrick Vieira, who knows a thing or two about winning trophies himself, jumped to Balotelli’s defence. "Mario is misunderstood,” said Vieira, who also played under Mourinho in Milan. “He is not a bad guy. He loves football. He is young, he makes mistakes – but he is beginning to learn from them.

"I think people around him have to help, make him understand when he makes a mistake. I think coming to England will make him grow up. He will have to learn to put his talent into the football club.

"We know each other really well from our time at Inter and I can tell you he is a lovely lad. I really like him as a person and I will do my best to help him because this club needs his talent."

For his part, Balotelli expressed bemusement at question marks over his character: “I am not a bad boy. They say this in Italy but I am just a normal guy. I am not sure why I have this reputation. Really, I don’t know and I really don’t care about it now.

"Of course, this is a time to mature. But mistakes can always occur. I’m still young. I’m not old."

City need Balotelli to grab the media’s attention for his on-pitch exploits. With Emmanuel Adebayor seemingly out of favour, the Italian can expect to see plenty of playing time. City’s Subbuteo attack of Carlos Tevez, David Silva and Shaun Wright-Phillips has its merits, but manager Roberto Mancini is crying out for a physical presence up front. Mancini worked with Balotelli in his Inter days and the pair seem to have a good working relationship.

The club’s defeat at Sunderland was a reminder that City still lack the killer instinct of title contenders, and a draw, a win and a loss from their first three Premier League games underlines the inconsistency even at this early stage.

Balotelli might be young in years, but he has had the invaluable experience of playing alongside Samuel Eto’o and Milito at Inter, two of the most clinical goalscorers in Europe. He has also broken onto the international scene, making his full debut for Italy this summer. All that will serve him well as he adapts to the Premier League and everything about his game suggests he has the ability to be one of City’s most impressive performers. What is less clear is whether the striker has the temperament to join the game’s top talents.

Only time will tell – and fans around the world will not have long to wait for an answer. If he stays out of trouble and listens to Vieira’s advice, Balotelli could fulfill his potential and light up Eastlands throughout the next decade.

But then again, it is impossible to make predictions where Balotelli is concerned.