The Italian striker received his marching orders after two yellow cards against Arsenal on Sunday as City slipped to a defeat which may well have ended their title hopes.
Roberto Mancini admitted in the aftermath of that result that he ‘probably’ will now sell Balotelli, and depending on the length of an FA ban he may well miss the rest of the season anyway.
If Mancini goes through with his threat, that may mean that Balotelli has played his last game in the Premier League.
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Balotelli’s 13 Premier League goals this season have come at a quicker rate than even the leading Premier League hitman Robin van Persie could muster – Mario scores every 100.8 minutes, while Van Persie finds the net every 107.5 minutes. At just 21 years of age, with a 6’3” frame, he is on paper at least a dream striker to have on the books.
Gareth Barry may be a reliable footballer, but he’s unlikely to inspire a Tinchy Stryder song. Balotelli has been an absolutely captivating addition to the Premier League, with stories of his madcap antics ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous, from the honest truth to the whiff of fantasy to the total nonsense. But whatever your opinion on Balotelli, there can be few arguments that he’s made the league a more interesting place.
Early on in his Manchester City reign, Turin newspaper Tuttosport voted Balotelli the best young player in Europe, following on in the tradition of the likes of Cesc Fabregas, Wayne Rooney and Rafael van der Vaart. It’s easily forgotten that he’s one of the brightest footballing talents on the continent.
It’s not just the red cards which have let Balotelli down, though there have been four in his Manchester City career already, including three this year. It’s also the knack of doing something unpredictable. He was hauled off by manager Roberto Mancini in a pre-season friendly for trying to score with a spinning backheel rather than applying a simple finish. “In football you always need to be professional, always serious,” said Mancini at the time, “and he wasn’t".
Balotelli’s antics have made for fascinating reading, but for Manchester City they’ve proven a headache to manage. Curries at the wrong time, reported visits to strip clubs – Mancini has fined his striker but on the whole it is felt he has indulged the player. When City are struggling with discipline, and fellow striker Carlos Tevez had been cast out for months after refusing to warm up during a match in September, that indulgence of Balotelli looked like a recipe for creating division within the squad.