FEB 2 — Mario Balotelli and David Beckham would make a great comedy double act, don’t you think? You can picture it now: some kind of modern-day Laurel and Hardy; let’s call them Balo and Becks.
Balo and Becks — based in LA, I believe — roam the streets, with Super Mario getting up to all sorts of dubious mischief and unwittingly leaving a trail of chaotic carnage in his wake. Handing out fistfuls of fifty-dollar notes to complete strangers, setting off fireworks inside his house... you know the deal. A one-man demolition derby.
But then, wading serenely through the destruction, along comes Mr Smooth... rejoice everyone, it’s Becks!
Flashing his toothy grin and bantering his charming patter — always with a perfect show of good manners, naturally — Becks finds a way to enchant even the meanest of mean street enemies, the meatiest of mafia meatheads, and makes everything all right again. And as our heartthrob hero, he always gets the girl, of course.
The Balo and Becks show certainly dominated an otherwise dreary end to the January transfer window.
Roberto Mancini — understandably, inevitably — finally reached the conclusion that has been obvious to most people for a long time: Super Mario will never be tamed. A bundle of natural talent he might be, but a committed athlete he is certainly not.
AC Milan are currently really rather excited to have brought the wayward talent “home”; that excitement will soon turn to frustration.
Balotelli’s personality will ensure, I believe, that his career is destined to be a tale of inconsistency and underachievement. Occasionally spectacular and often entertaining, but generally ineffective, or worse — I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s finished by the time he’s 30.
That’s a crushing shame because the Italian possesses enough ability to become one of the very best in the world; not quite as good as Messi or Ronaldo, maybe, but not far behind. He is capable of producing rarely seen moments of matchwinning brilliance. We know this because he has done it.
Sadly, those electrifying contributions are all too rare, because Balotelli just does not have the dedication to his profession or the commitment to his craft to produce his best on a regular basis.
It will never appear in more than tantalising flashes, because he does not demand the highest standards of himself. In Super Mario’s world, long bouts of mediocrity are acceptable and it’s always somebody else’s fault.
Don’t get me wrong; he will continue to win trophies (he already boasts an impressive haul) because his inherent ability will ensure that he always plays for major club after attracting managers who, like Mancini, believe they’ll be able to coax the best out of him.
They will all fail because personalities do not change. If Balotelli was ever going to become reformed character, he would have done it by now.
The trait that unites all elite athletes in any sport — and by “elite” I mean those who perform consistently at the very highest level over a number of years — is an almost obsessive devotion to self-improvement.
Messi and Ronaldo might be poles apart in their personality and style of play, but they are both tireless workers who single-mindedly dedicate hour after hour to the simple task of making themselves better.
It’s an old cliché, but you really do get out what you put in — and Balotelli, I’m afraid, does not put enough in.
That’s quite a contrast to Beckham, who has just joined Paris St Germain — the richest club in the world — at the age of 37, having already represented Manchester United, Real Madrid and AC Milan.
He’s also made more than 100 international appearances, captained his country, and played a major role in developing the world’s most popular sport in the world’s most culturally powerful country. Not to mention fronting a bid to host the World Cup, being awarded an OBE and carrying the Olympic torch.
Not bad for someone who is (or was) a very good player, but certainly not a world beater; certainly not in Balotelli’s class, in terms of natural ability.
David Beckham is a shining example of what can be achieved by a moderate amount of talent if it is channelled in the right direction and combined with relentless commitment. He has always prided himself on being the first player on the training field every morning, and the last to leave every afternoon.
And that, despite his ascent into superstardom and the manipulative marketing methods that have been relentlessly applied to protect and enhance his celebrity status, remains the case.
Beckham is still the most dedicated footballer you will ever find and it is that quality — rather than his instant recognition as a global megastar — that has allowed him to prolong his career until now.
Beckham might not be quite the player he used to be. He has understandably lost the ability to cover every blade of grass with unstoppable exuberance and energy, but he can still play.
He is still fit, he still possesses a great right foot and he can still control the flow and tempo of a game. If he was nothing but a superstar without any of the substance that made him a superstar, he wouldn’t be getting offers from the richest club in the world.
Beckham has always worked hard on his game and resultantly was able to make the most of his talent. Balotelli has not, and therefore will not.
* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.