Listen, Balotelli, you are not worth the trouble any more
21:30 GMT, 7 October 2012
There comes a point at which Mario Balotelli becomes more trouble than he is worth. And inch by inch, he would appear to be getting there.
Substituted against Sunderland on Saturday, Balotelli marched straight down the tunnel, ignoring his manager Roberto Mancini and his team-mates, who were holding a slender 1-0 lead at the time.
His presence on the touchline would have made no difference to the outcome but it would have demonstrated solidarity, a sense that all at the club were in it together, in what has been a difficult season so far.
Why always him Mario Balotelli is causing problems the Manchester City manager could do without
Yet Balotelli left without a backward glance, departed from the ground soon after the final whistle and headed back to Italy for international duty. No doubt he had a plane to catch. As did Mancini, this being a break in the Premier League programme.
Maybe Balotelli is also a quick dresser. Billy Bonds, lion-hearted captain of West Ham United, used to be heading south through the Blackwall Tunnel when most of his team-mates were still lathering up the Head and Shoulders. It did not mean he wasn’t committed.
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Yet Bonds would not have deserted his club in a show of petulance on being substituted. He would not have done anything that would have placed even an ounce of extra pressure on his manager on what was, otherwise, a very good day.
Manchester City were anxious to point out that Mancini has put up with far worse than this from Balotelli without it being the last straw. But why should he have to put up with anything at all
How long does he have to offer excuses and mitigations, or see achievements overshadowed because Balotelli wants to operate beyond the strictures of the team ethic
There are some at City who would have dealt with the problem in the summer. It is not the first occasion Mancini has been forced to treat Balotelli as a special case.
The Mansour family are not in the habit of over-ruling the manager on team matters, but one wonders whether there will come a time when Mancini tires of being the lone speaker in Balotelli’s defence.
He can be a quite brilliant footballer, too, we know that.
During last week’s Champions League tie with Borussia Dortmund, there seemed to be some dispute between Balotelli and Sergio Aguero over who would take City’s late-awarded penalty. Move away from the ball, Sergio. Balotelli is the best penalty taker in the country, arguably the world. The moment he stepped up, the stadium was confident that City would salvage a point.
Unfortunately, there is no slot in football for a place kicker. Balotelli cannot remain on the sidelines ready to be called to action in those moments that define a game.
Not that this is all he offers; more that the rest of it comes with a maintenance bill attached. There is always a price to pay for Balotelli’s involvement: but the cost is beginning to outweigh the benefit.
Balotelli has scored five goals in his last 16 appearances for Manchester City. Not all of them have been starts, but compare this to the 16 matches before: eight goals. And to the start of last season: five goals in seven.
Storming off: Balotelli was substituted and headed straight for the dressing room during City's win
Balotelli’s powers are waning; but his capacity for distraction, his nuisance value, is not.
His first season was difficult. Understandably so. A young man in a new country and a new league, Mancini was his father figure and his nurturing nature was admirable.
And scoring so prolifically last season — between September 21, 2011 and December 12, 2011 his record was 11 goals in 14 matches — the time spent indulging Balotelli seemed very much relative to worth. Not any more.
I'm outta here: Balotelli made for Italy
For one goal every three appearances in the strongest roster in the Premier League, Balotelli should be devoting time to keeping Mancini happy, not the other way around.
The ECB dropped Kevin Pietersen from the squad and quickly discovered his value was greater than imagined. They were right to make a stand but there is more than a hint of pragmatism in his return.
Had England retained the World Twenty20 crown, for instance, or convincingly defeated South Africa in the final summer Test, would his rehabilitation have been as necessary
Similarly, Cristiano Ronaldo. At more than a goal a game for Real Madrid, he is worth the time the club must spend nursing his ego.
Yet if Mancini once placed Balotelli in the same category, the strength of his feeling may soon dissolve. There is a transfer window looming in January and there will again be voices within the organisation counselling to make Balotelli part of it.
Eventually Mancini might be minded to take their advice.
If a quick getaway is what that the player desires, how long must City stand in his way
FA's silky skills won the day but no-one was happy with the result
Since 1989, Chambers and Partners have been researching the legal profession in the United Kingdom, identifying its leading protagonists through interviews with thousands of lawyers and their clients. They rate Jonathan Laidlaw QC as one of the eight ‘star silks’ practising at the criminal bar in Britain.
And this was the man chosen by the Football Association to present their case against John Terry.
A lot was written about Terry’s engagement of leading barrister George Carter-Stephenson, to plead his defence. The picture painted was of a man who needed the best available legal mind, to give his flimsy case credibility.
High profile: Jonathan James Laidlaw
One presumed from here that the FA were on such sure ground, they could almost be represented by a senior member of their in-house legal team.
Not quite. As Treasury Counsel, Laidlaw brought Britain’s first war crimes case and acted as prosecution in the trial of the Provisional IRA bombing of Canary Wharf, the Official Secrets Act prosecution of David Shayler, the Jill Dando murder trial, the trial of the Al Qaeda cell that planned pre-9/11 attacks in the United States and United Kingdom, the trial of the Al Qaeda attack on Glasgow Airport and of Delroy Grant, the ‘Night Stalker’, who received four life sentences and is believed responsible for roughly 100 cases of rape, sexual assault and burglary.
Laidlaw is described by Chambers as ‘an extraordinarily able advocate’ with ‘lethal cross-examination skills’, a ‘mean way with closing speeches’ and ‘advocacy skills right out of the top drawer.’
And this was the FA’s silk of choice. You might say they needed the win. Laidlaw’s brand of excellence does not come cheap. He would certainly have been an upgrade even on the estimable Duncan Perry, the barrister who prosecuted Terry at Westminster Magistrates Court.
Then again, just as Terry required a silver-tongued performer to convince that his offensive words were not said in anger, the FA would have wished for an equally smooth operator to explain why it changed article 7.3 of its regulations this summer to lower the burden of proof in civil cases and why it ignored article 6.8 and an earlier suggestion to Terry that a not-guilty verdict from Westminster’s Chief Magistrate would apply to his FA case, too.
Whatever problems the world has with Terry — and it is entitled to plenty — the FA process stands up to no greater scrutiny than his defence.
The most laughable speculation suggests the governing body could now investigate Ashley Cole, for the supposed evolution of his evidence. He gave an interview to the FA and then, when his recollections were presented as a statement for signature, had a word inserted that strengthened Terry’s case.
The disciplinary panel found this a bit whiffy and as good as called Cole a liar. Yet suppose the FA wished to pursue the matter No tape was placed on Cole’s interview and the FA did not initially disclose the written notes taken by a former employee, even to police. The FA want it all ways.
The four-match ban given by an independent commission containing an FA vice-president from Huntingdonshire, a chairman the FA appointed and a third member who — for the duration of the hearing — was on the FA payroll, seems soft, considering the violence of the language in question and the conclusion that Terry and his cohorts had systematically lied about it for almost a year.
Not guilty: Terry was cleared of the charges in the criminal courts back in July
Yet because the FA’s behaviour in this matter has been inconsistent, to put it mildly, they were once again disinclined to make the final connection between racist words and racism. So Terry, like Luis Suarez, isn’t racist. He’s just a bloke who calls a black person an FBC and then lies about it. Which is, coincidentally, precisely the sort of thing a racist might do.
Chelsea are under increasing pressure to remove Terry as captain and understandably so, yet the FA won’t join the dots on Terry — and didn’t on Suarez — because to do so would almost certainly provoke further challenge in a higher court, shining light on a process that could not withstand rigorous scrutiny.
So we have this horrid compromise, in which the punishment is harsh enough to imply the FA is serious about racism, but the verdict is not so damning that the guilty party has no option but to appeal. Leaving nobody happy.
AND WHILE WE'RE AT IT…London Orient
The increasingly desperate Barry Hearn, having rubbished the Olympic Stadium as a football venue for several years, now wants his club, Leyton Orient, to groundshare there with West Ham United.
'You would have the commercial Premier League entity, coupled with the local community club serving the community,' he says.
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Care in the community: Barry Hearn wants to move to the Olympic site and change Leyton Orient's name
They were Orient Football Club (1888), Clapton Orient (1898), Leyton Orient (1946), Orient (1966) and Leyton Orient again (1987). The final alteration was most significant, though, because it came after a supporters campaign organised by the fanzine Leyton Orientear.
The fans wanted Leyton back. Not London. No self-respecting Orient fan would want London inserted in the name, because it means nothing.
A London club could come from anywhere: north, south, east or west. Orient aren’t from London, they’re from Leyton. To get to Brisbane Road, alight at Leyton station and walk down Leyton High Road. You don’t get more Leyton than that.
Hearn bangs on about community but clearly has no idea what it means. Leyton Orient’s community is Leyton. That’s why it’s in the name.
Roy's on right track with David… and Rio
David Bernstein should remain chairman of the Football Association, we are told, because he has developed a strong friendship and working relationship with England manager Roy Hodgson.
Why should this matter /10/07/article-2214240-152F6DB2000005DC-464_634x384.jpg” width=”634″ height=”384″ alt=”How to make friends and influence people: Roy Hodgson landed himself in hot water this week” class=”blkBorder” />
How to make friends and influence people: Roy Hodgson landed himself in hot water this week
Sven Goran Eriksson is believed to be among those interested in taking over at Blackburn Rovers. He rejected that chance many years ago, surely
Peter Hanson says he will not be sending Jose Maria Olazabal many Christmas cards, having being left out of Europe’s Ryder Cup pairs in three of four sessions.
Limited: Peter Hanson barely got out on the course during the Ryder Cup triumph in Chicago
Hanson did not play Friday morning, or all of Saturday, and his sole contribution prior to the singles was partnering Paul Lawrie in a 5&4 defeat by Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson.
His case for inclusion would have had greater credence had he proved Olazabal wrong on Sunday, instead of losing to Jason Dufner. Hanson was the only European not to get on the scoreboard at Medinah, rather proving Olazabal’s point.