Super Mario shines despite his scrape with fashion police
It had always looked like a risky decision to relocate Mario Balotelli from Manchester's Deansgate to the bucolic surrounds of Mottram St Andrew, where his most outlandish neighbour is Michael Carrick.
The 21-year-old's family were actually urging him to abandon thoughts of a rural home a year ago because they didn't know how he would occupy himself.
He certainly arrived with a bang, and Cheshire Police may have further involvement in the fireworks episode in the early hours of Saturday which saw the striker forced to relocate to a hotel.
Mercifully for Roberto Mancini, Balotelli's two goals and a t-shirt enabled the latest scrape with disaster to be put aside last night.
Mancini is expected to speak to Balotelli about the firework incident in the next 48 hours, though it will not be a heavy censure, judging by his declaration last night that the player is one of the best five in the world.
"I don't know what happened about the fireworks," Mancini said.
"The important thing is Mario and his friend were okay. For today, Mario played very well. I put him in the first five players in the world.
"The problem is his age. He is young and maybe sometimes can do some mistakes," added the delighted manager.
"As a player, he is incredible."
This was a level of generosity that some other City players will find it hard to recognise in Mancini.
Balotelli (21) is not a child. Mancini didn't name his other world top four, though the suggestion that Balotelli stands above Sergio Aguero is an eye-catching one.
The manager's paternal approach is the only one that will enable him to hold on to a £27m player who, without it, would probably have returned to Milan already.
The "Why is it always me?' t-shirt Balotelli revealed after his exquisite first goal -- altering his body shape to glide a ball, first time, past Jonny Evans -- said it all.
But it served only to deepen Mancini's affection.
"I didn't see the t-shirt," Mancini said.
"I love him because he's a good guy. Next time it's better he keeps his shirt on to stop him getting booked. I joke when I say he's crazy. I love him like a guy."
Before the manager had finished his post-match analysis, he was positing the notion of Balotelli ascending the world elite.
"I hope for him, for football, we arrive at the day when Mario has changed his mind because after this he becomes one of the best three players in the world, like Messi, like Cristiano Ronaldo." (© Independent News Service)