In last week's installment, I noted that The Guardian Football Weekly podcast's Paul MacInnes had suggested that Mario Balotelli acts out (both on the field and off it) to cultivate a "bad boy image" to increase his profile and marketing potential. There's certainly some merit to the idea that Balotelli's persona is not entirely organic, but "bad boy" isn't quite his brand. He is built on unpredictability.
Take, for instance, the most notable events in Balotelli's life this week. Despite his reputation as an insane egoist, he's very involved in charities. In fact, it was announced that part of a school in South Sudan has been named after Balotelli after a sizable donation, which adds to a charitable resume that includes confronting a school bully and giving a large sum of money to a homeless man. Clearly this is a passion for him beyond the basic PR interests that drive many charitable donations for public figures.
Of course, it wouldn't be a Balotelli week without controversy, and around the same time his charitable contribution came to light he also ran afoul of Roberto Mancini. Before Monday's big match (and eventual 2-1 loss) against Chelsea, Balotelli missed curfew, during which he had a mock rolling-pin fight with a friend, and will likely be fined, if he hasn't been already. Then, as if to emphasize just how little he'd learned from his admonishment, he stole Sergio Aguero's gloves a few minutes before kickoff. However, these antics didn't affect his performance -- he scored City's lone goal just a few minutes into the match with a nonchalant finish into an open goal.
It should be clear that these are not the actions of a bad boy. Balotelli is confusing, childish, and often brilliant. But that inconsistency just makes him more lifelike in a sporting landscape where we're conditioned to read everyone's professional comportment as a reflection of their moral standing.