Is there a more overrated player in the world than Mario Balotelli? He was awful today and constantly a liability. Could it be that I’ve missed all or any of the games when he was impressive or, at least, good? God knows that I form many of my football judgments by imagining: “What if I were on that team or in that situation? What would I do?” If I ever found myself on the same team with Balotelli, I would strive to injure him in training. Today, when he took the ball from Sergio Ramos and strolled leisurely toward the goal, as if the Spaniards would just all stop to admire his brazen brilliance, I imagined myself screaming at him until I was spitting out whole chunks of my healthy lungs. There was also that tantrum when he was pounding the pitch because of some perceived injustice. Whenever a referee sends him out with a red card (which is often and could always happen again), he reminds me of a child being sent to his room, where he would complete his tantrum, safe in his conviction that the toys and cookies will come no matter what. For he is, and always will be, a special boy.
How did Balotelli become such a big deal, without anything to show for it? Could it be that, rather than generating chances, let alone goals, he generates stories? Could it be that Balotelli is a narrative, rather than a player? Today, after the game, the ESPN expert (Lord help us) Alexi Lalas continuously referred to him as “Mario,” explaining the Balotelli behaviour by saying: “He is Mario.” Needless to say, he never called Di Natale (a much more useful player, someone I would want to have on my team) Antonio, nor did he call Pirlo Andrea. Mario is not a footballer, he is a feckless celebrity. Mario is the star of a football reality show, whereby the game itself is but an excuse for the participants to indulge in deplorable public behaviour for the pleasure of the ass-growing audience. One can imagine Lalas recruiting him, Beckham-like, for the LA Galaxy, because Mario would be profitably famous and people would come to see him, hoping for some unimaginably stupid meltdown, hoping to witness a Balotelli.