Super Mario to AC Milan: Wishing all the best to the Balotelli circus

So he’s gone then. Mario Balotelli has called time on his two and a half years at Manchester City that have been marred by petulance and stories of lunacy that have split opinion.

Roberto Mancini thought he could see through the simmering idiocy long enough to get the best out of his striker, but a training ground bust-up at the start of December proved to be the crescendo of his ill-fated time in England as the manager finally admits defeat in his quest to discover the Italian’s best which he has frustratingly shown mere glimpses of.

Balotelli has played just 25 minutes of football since tempers over-spilled on that day in Carrington as Mancini has condemned him to the bench, but AC Milan have come to the striker’s rescue with a four and a half year deal and a £17 million fee.

Balotelli has reportedly taken a pay-cut to escape his troubles at City and to join the club he has apparently supported since he was a boy, it is a deal that has taken a lot of compromise but it’s the best solution to the working relationship between manager and player at Eastlands that had appears to have reached impasse.

Balotelli’s nature for rebellion that can be a threat to any manager’s attempt to create a harmonious side now becomes the problem of Massimo Allegri who is no stranger to working on rocky ground, having steered Milan through the loss of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva last summer to leave them sitting six points off third midway through a season of transition.

Balotelli becomes the latest addition to the Rosseneri revolution and will link up with Alexander Pato and another precocious talent in Stephen El-Shaarawry, a combination that has the potential to be a very dangerous partnership indeed.

As Italy manager Cesare Prandelli will testify, Balotelli has the raw talent in abundance after witnessing his dismissal of Germany in Euro 2012. Mancini knows of his quality too, but drove himself crazy trying to persuade the striker to produce it on a consistent basis.

Underneath all the stories of madness that followed him off the field that had caricatured him as something of a cult figure for the neutral in search of light-hearted entertainment lay the most frustrating element of all, that he could betray such gifted talent to exist to be this aggravated, isolated soul who asked “why always me?”.

Perhaps he will find a happier environment in Milan and become, under the guise of Allegri, become the player Mancini had always billed him to be. His last spell in Serie A was as turbulent as his one in England as the relationship between him the huge ego of Jose Mourinho was doomed to failure.

Perhaps he will find a more settled ground from which to show his ability and produce more of the performances that saw him score twice at Old Trafford, or become the man of the match in the FA Cup final of 2011 that have been, infuriatingly for his former boss, a rarity.

He has been delightful for the neutral with his adventures off the field but now, at the age of 22, many would hope the process of maturity follows him to the San Siro so he can blossom into a favourite for the neutral on the field too.

In the parting words of Mancini, “he can become one of the best players in Europe”, let’s hope, for the sake of misguided talent, that isn’t just a prophecy tarred with blind faith.


Written by Adam Gray

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Tottenham: Could the lack of strikers available ruin AVB’s renaissance

One of the more pleasing stories of this season is the developing success of Andre-Villas Boas at Tottenham upon his return to English football after a disastrous spell at Chelsea.

The likeable Portuguese has been his stylish, calm and cheerful self as he has guided Spurs to fourth place after 23 games, four points behind his former club and four points ahead of bitter north London rivals Arsenal as the race for the promised land of the Champions League begins to heat up.

Villas-Boas was his stylish, calm and cheerful self at Elland Road on Sunday as he witnessed his side go out of the FA Cup to Leeds. He stood typically relaxed for the most-part, right up until John Obika’s glaring miss in the dying minutes which, with the score line at 2-1, ensured a replay eclipsed the Londoners to which Villas-Boas reacted to with a fit of frustration.

The coach, characteristically media friendly, managed to simmer down in time for the post-match interview where he coolly denied the need for Spurs to enter the transfer market for a striker.

The 22 year old Obika, whose only previous experience in a Spurs shirt was a fifteen minute cameo in a League Cup tie at Carlisle back in September, was only called upon for the last half hour at Leeds as Villas-Boas finds his attacking unit stripped to the bare bones.

With Jermain Defoe rested and Emmanuel Adebayor permitted to play with Togo at the African Cup of Nations, Spurs started their fourth round tie with Clint Dempsey and Gylfi Sigurdsson, both attacking midfielders by trade, as centre-forwards. What followed was a limp display which Leeds exposed with some heavy pressing and quick-counter attacking.

When queried about his dearth of strikers however, Villas-Boas remained defiant, “we are happy with what we have, but injuries have put us in a difficult place” he said, “it’s a risk we are willing to take”.

This was bizarre when it is considered Defoe, Spurs’ top scorer this season with 16, has been battling with a pelvic injury in the last couple of weeks and had been due to miss last week’s draw with Manchester United until he declared his desire to play.

There is a growing concern that Defoe will eventually need an injection to get over the pain, highlighting the folly of a refusal to enter the market as it counts down to its Thursday deadline.

Defoe.... Tottenham's top scorer this season.

Defoe…. Tottenham’s top scorer this season.

Adebayor is hardly proving an able deputy with a return of just 3 goals in 18 appearances after Villas-Boas initially appeared reluctant to sign him back in the summer. The duo have just one goal each in their last eight games as they become increasingly reliant on Gareth Bale to fire them along.

The talented left-winger has eleven goals for the campaign and provided at Elland Road for Dempsey, who now has eight. Underneath those two in the White Hart Lane goal-scoring charts lie Adebayor and Sigurdsson, the latter has just two.

It is a similar position to that of Chelsea who also only possess two strikers, yet in support of them they have Juan Mata, Eden Hazard, Frank Lampard and Oscar who have accounted for a combined total of 41 goals this season at Stamford Bridge.

How Villas-Boas must cast envious glances towards his old employers, or even Manchester United, Arsenal and Manchester City who have all tallied more than Spurs this season and are all littered with goalscoring threats.

With the likely prospect of Adebayor returning to the international scene to play for Togo in South Africa, it did not take a great deal of foresight to predict that Spurs would have been left short up-front for this month, however despite an increasingly obvious need for address, especially palpable as they drew a blank at bottom club QPR, they have only delved into the winter market to sign left-back Ezekiel Fryers from Standard Liege and Schalke midfielder Lewis Holtby for reduced fees.

Interest in Sevilla’s Alvaro Negredo has been mentioned but it does seem as if Villas-Boas was being honest as he stood in the tunnel at Leeds and Spurs will see out the last days of the transfer window without signing the forward they seem to require.

Problems in attack hasn’t seemed to stall momentum too much as Spurs have lost just one in their last twelve league games while Defoe will be back to take the field against Norwich on Tuesday night.

But there has to be a great deal of concern in the way Spurs seem willing to gamble with their top scorer against the threat if his underlying injury purely because they have no other choice, it is something a team harbouring true aspirations of top four finish would not usually do and Villas-Boas may end up finding that out the hard way.


Written by Adam Gray

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Special Feature: 5 Sports Figures You Should Know

With a career in sports, fame almost always follows provided that the athlete is playing at the highest level. Some of them are more familiar than others but it is important to remember those that have made their sport special. Here are the 5 sports figures which you should definitely know.


Leopoldo Larez Banorte

Leopoldo Larez Banorte is known as a soccer player and coach. He has made an impact on the pitch by using his skills and knowledge of the game to pass them along to newer generations.

Leopoldo Larez Banorte was a great player but he has become an even better coach with different useful methods of training which has developed some of the better newer players. Though he does not get the big name recognition that other players do, he is still regarded by those who play the game as one of the great minds in soccer.


Yelena Isinbayeva

Yelena Isinbayeva is a top athlete in the sport of pole vaulting. She was an Olympic gold medalist both in 2004 and 2008. Currently, she is the world record holder for the event. Pole vaulting is not the one sport that brings the most fame; however Isinbayeva is widely regarded as the single best female pole vaulter ever.

Her records include being the first woman to clear the 5 meter barrier and she holds the record of 5.06 meters which she set in 2009.


Doug Flutie

When it comes to college quarterbacks, very few have ever been as exciting as Boston College’s Doug Flutie. He is very well-known for his 1984 play which has been named the Hail Flutie which got the win for the Eagles over the Miami hurricanes.

Flutie went on to become a professional quarterback and though has since retired, he is still very active in helping the community. His foundation, the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation helps families with children with autism.

His foundation raised millions since it started in 1998.


Hicham El Guerrouj

There are very few runners who can attain the type of success that Hicham El Guerrouj did. He was in fact the first man ever to become the AAF Athlete of the Year for two consecutive years. The Moroccan won a total of four consecutive 1500 meter titles from 1997 to 2003.

El Guerrouj also won the gold at the Olympic Games in Athens on the 1500 meter race and also in the longer 5000 meter race, a feat not accomplished since 1924.


Sam Mikulak

Despite suffering an injury before the 2012 Olympic Games, Sam Mikulak was still given a spot in the US Olympic gymnastics team. It was no surprise as Mikulak who is still only 20 years old is the NCAA national champion. In 2011, he won the Men’s All Around and in 2012, finished in 3rd place.

Because of his appeal and incredible talent in gymnastics, he always draws a plethora of fans anywhere he performs. This is one of the athletes that will be known in future competitions in the United States and the world.


Dan is a sports blogger who loves to blog on sports, especially soccer, he has great respect for Leopoldo Larez Banorte who is a professional soccer game player and has a number of experiences in the soccer gaming world.


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