Paper Round: Balotelli the pride of Italy

There may have been 22 men on the pitch but as far as the papers are concerned, Italy's victory against Germany in Thursday's Euro 2012 semi-final came down to one man: Mario Balotelli.


"Why always him?" asks the back page of The Independent with a photo of the striker's muscleman-pose celebration, referring to Balotelli's "Why always me?" t-shirt unveiled at Old Trafford last year. Similar images of the Manchester City man are all over the back pages of every paper as the Italian is lauded as an all-conquering hero.

The Sun's Sean Custis kicks off his report with a reference to one of the 21-year-old's off-pitch antics: "Mario Balotelli nearly burned his house down when he let off fireworks in the bathroom — last night he set a whole football stadium alight."

The Daily Mirror's Martin Lipton is equally glowing: "Super, Mario," he writes. "Now can you do it on Sunday?"

Over on the continent Italy's Gazzetta Dello Sport hails Balotelli as the "Pride of Italy", again using the goal celebration picture of the star with his shirt off (he did get booked for it, incidentally).

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But Spain's AS completely ignores the Italian victory on its back page, instead reporting that over 19 million people tuned in the previous night to watch Spain's semi-final on TV.

Inside, however, they deliver a scathing verdict on Italy's defeat of Germany: "Italy, traditionally competitive, rough and functional, have killed a beautiful butterfly."

Harsh words, but there's even worse news for Germany coach Jogi Loew in Bild, which blames the boss for the Euro defeat and claims that he was "confused" in his team selection to face Italy.

The Telegraph describes the defeat of Loew's much-lauded German side in the sort of terms that were reserved for the 1990s-vintage side: "Germany juggernaut judders to a halt," is the headline on Jason Burt's analysis, in which he says Germany suffered a genuine mental block against Italy despite having denied that there was any such thing.

The Daily Star goes to town with the news of David Beckham being left out of the Team GB Olympic football squad: "Stabbed in the Beck" is their front page headline, with the report saying that he was "cruelly left out... despite his massive role in London's winning bid for the Games."

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The Sun used the exact same headline, but with an extra twist: "Stabbed in the Beck by a Psycho," referring to Team GB coach Stuart Pearce's famous nickname. The paper's Steven Howard sums the decision up succinctly: "Mean-spirited, out of touch with popular sentiment and wrong," he writes, adding that it's laughable for Micah Richards to be one of the three over-age players when he refused to be on England's stand-by list for Euro 2012.

The Daily Mirror's Oliver Holt takes a similar line, making the obvious argument that Beckham's mere presence in the squad would probably have been a major boost to the team's spirit, and that the FA and BOA are both "embarrassed by the way Beckham has been treated by Pearce," and adding that he has been treated as a "political pawn".

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The Daily Mail's Martin Samuel flies against the wind, saying that Pearce, "did what was right. He decided to give the competition his best shot. And Pearce's best shot this summer does not include David Beckham."

They may be a day late, but the Daily Telegraph piles into the debate about whether Spain are boring or not. Paul Hayward claims that the problem is solely that "Spain need a striker", before he launches into an extended metaphor comparing the Spanish side to a bullfighter stalking its prey:

"In (2008 and 2010) the Spanish knife was always glinting in the sun. Tiki-taka was the sadistic prelude to the kill. This time, admittedly, the bull is offered tea and cake."

In the day's transfer news the Daily Star reports that one of Andre Villas-Boas's first acts when he's installed as Tottenham manager will be to buy Joao Moutinho from Porto for £32 million. AVB apparently sees the Portuguese midfield star as the ideal man to replace Luka Modric, who seems increasingly likely to leave White Hart Lane.

Also in the Star is a report that Manchester City are to offer Robin van Perise £225,000 a week to persuade him to move to Eastlands - ironic, considering that one of the club's other strikers is the toast of world football this morning.

The Daily Mail reports that Paris St Germain are also in the race for the Dutch striker, while The Sun reports that West Ham want to sign William Gallas and Liverpool will target Wigan's Victor Moses if Gylfi Sigurdsson decides to move to Spurs rather than the Reds.

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