This Week in Mario Balotelli: Discord and Strife

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Last week, our friend Mario and his Manchester City teammate Micah Richards got in a tussle at the training ground. It's something that happens in all sports, but this one took on an added significance just for the involvement of Balotelli. He's a lightning rod for criticism, or at least attention, and City didn't quite like the media gaze. On top of that, it was the fourth such dustup for the club this season, and the third to involve Balotelli. So, naturally, they said this sort of thing happens all the time at other places, erected a barrier to ensure no one could ever see them again, and went on being an incredibly great club in the richest league in the world.

A cynic would suggest that City officials are simply trying to cover up some kind of internal strife amongst the squad. Yet, given the team's performance–and especially that of Balotelli–that argument holds little water. Even with all these fights, the Blues keep winning big matches, including a 1-0 win at the Eastlands vs. Arsenal this past Sunday. Balotelli has also proven massively important to their success: he took the shot that rebounded for the game's lone goal. He's not the most consistent player in the world, but his moments of brilliance have made him an integral part of a team that's certainly not lacking in other attacking options. There's no clear evidence that Balotelli's causing internal strife and, even if he were, Roberto Mancini and his assistants seem to have decided he's worth the trouble. Can someone who earns so much playing time on a league leader be considered a bad influence?

Oh, and rumors abound that Balotelli spent his Saturday handing out money in Manchester while dressed as Santa Claus. I'm inclined to believe it, and not just because it's a ridiculous thought.

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