Daniel Gregory’s weekly column: Super Mario’s a breath of fresh air

Manchester City's Mario Balotelli (second left) celebrates scoring during the Barclays Premier League match at Old Trafford, Manchester. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday October 23, 2011. See PA story SOCCER Man Utd. Photo credit should read: Martin Rickett/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorised audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 45 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications.
Manchester City's Mario Balotelli (second left) celebrates scoring during the Barclays Premier League match at Old Trafford, Manchester. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday October 23, 2011. See PA story SOCCER Man Utd. Photo credit should read: Martin Rickett/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorised audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 45 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications.

READING through the weekend’s sport supplements was a more laborious task than usual.

Page after page of boring copy about the whole John Terry racism debacle that just doesn’t interest me.

I did find a couple of interesting features on the Mirror and Guardian sites that immediately caught my attention.

Players come along every now and then that just capture the imagination of football fans across the country.

Eric Cantona lit up the early years of the Premier League and Paolo Di Canio followed suit with his ‘assault’ of referee Paul Durkin and his general flair and charisma that saw him become an immediate fans favourite at Celtic, Sheffield Wednesday and West Ham.

Now we have Mario Balotelli. I am a massive fan of the Italian striker, and although he has his moments of madness that taint his undoubted ability on the pitch, but surely that’s why we love these characters?

The Mirror offered up ‘The madness of Mario: Top 10 bonkers Balotelli moments’.

Highlights for me were number 10, eight, three and one.

At number 10 is Balotelli’s frank response to being asked by police why he had £5,000 wedged in his back pocket after crashing his car near Man City’s Carrington training ground.

Balotelli retorted: “Because I’m rich.”

In at number eight is the week’s wages the enigmatic Italian was fined after throwing darts at youth players out of a window at Carrington. Agreed, that’s a fairly daft thing to do, but he missed so all can be forgiven.

Number three has to be my favourite one. Balotelli and his younger brother Enock were arrested while casually strolling the grounds of a women’s prison in Brescia, Italy.

When asked what they were doing there, Mario is reported to have told police that he “just fancied having a look”.

Number one is a little random but still amusing nonetheless.

We’ve all been sent down to the shops by our parents for the daily essentials. But when Balotelli’s mum sent him to get some cleaning products, he duly returned back home closely followed by a van carrying a giant trampoline and two Vespa scooters.

Most of us would get docked two weeks pocket money and severely reprimanded. I don’t think Balotelli is short of a penny or two though.

The Guardian’s offering was of course more factual and offered a more detailed scribe into the Italian’s childhood - possibly the reason why he is such a character.

He suffered from a life-threatening intestinal illness before he was fostered due to cramped living conditions.

He was kicked out of a youth team for disruptive behaviour when he was seven, and also had to be disciplined after mooning out of the back of a team bus at a jeep full of Italian soldiers.

But for all his shortcomings, Balotelli has offered the Premier League something it has been sadly lacking since the departure of Di Canio.

A character. Unpredictable yet simply brilliant on the pitch.

City fan Noel Gallagher sums it up superbly. “Football needs players like him because most footballers are basically squares.

“Have you never wondered what it would be like to set off rockets in your house? Visit a women’s prison just for a nosy? Write off a supercar? Deal only in cash? Befriend the mafia?

“Mario lives life on the edge, so people like you don’t have to.”

Balotelli’s City career is still in its infancy and time will tell if he is a success, but he’s doing fine for now in my eyes.