Despite his career still being in its infancy, Mario Balotelli has so far commanded more press attention than the majority of his fellow professionals are likely to manage in their entire careers, but the 23-year old will want his lasting legacy to be that of a sporting great rather than the one his current reputation dictates.
At present, Balotelli divides the opinion of betfair pundits like no other footballer on the planet. This week, he added another public dressing-down regarding his behaviour off the pitch, this time from his national coach, CesarePrandelli.
Certainly, the Italian does not court the media in a bid to be a role model – fortunately, his ability as an athlete on the pitch tends to justify all the furore which inevitably surrounds him.
However, following the Azzurri’s unbeaten World Cup qualifying campaign, he now has the chance to ensure that history remembers him as Italian footballing royalty, rather than an entertaining, but ultimately irreverent, court jester.
In coming off the bench and saving his country’s reputation by slotting home an equaliser against Armenia in Naples last week, Balotelli has really put himself forward as one to watch when the action gets underway in Brazil next year.
With his scoring record at international level only a fraction below one-in-two, he will be a fair bet with betfair to win the coveted Golden Boot.
Certainly, his domestic form is excellent – when suspension or injury permit him to play, of course – and having already netted fifteen times in his opening seventeen games for Milan, he is well on his way to securing his legend status for his club.
But the true litmus test will come between now and the end of the season – and should he continue his current form until May, Prandelli might have no choice but to give his ‘imbecile’the chance to redeem himself on the biggest stage of them all.