Balotelli: Am I a bad boy? I don't know and I don't care . . .
it seemed appropriate that on an afternoon when one highly controversial striker should be leaving Eastlands, another arrived.
When he signed for Manchester City, Craig Bellamy joked that he would be calling his autobiography 'Google Me' because he was tired of being confronted by incidents in his past whenever he was interviewed.
However, Bellamy and his posse never stood in the centre of Manchester's Exchange Square firing air pistols, as Balotelli and his chums did in Milan's Piazza della Repubblica.
Jose Mourinho, a man who does not tolerate eccentric behaviour in anyone other than himself, had called Balotelli "unmanageable" and rated one of his displays for Inter Milan as "close to zero".
"I don't want to talk about him, he is not my coach any more," was Balotelli's icy reply when asked about the Special One. "Am I a bad boy? I don't know and, really, I don't care."
His relationship with his manager came to a head at the end of one of Mourinho's greatest nights, the 3-1 defeat of Barcelona in the European Cup semi-final.
Before the match, Balotelli had been filmed in the black and red of AC Milan and, although he played just a quarter of an hour, he was relentlessly barracked at San Siro.
On the final whistle he took off his Inter top, threw it to the floor and marched down the tunnel, provoking a confrontation with his team-mate Marco Materazzi and a remark from the Inter midfielder Dejan Stankovic, who said: "Marco is like a child. What's wrong with him? Well, how long have you got?"
"It was after the Barcelona game that I decided I had to leave Inter," said Balotelli. "My name was everywhere and it had become difficult for me to live in Milan.
"I got on okay with most of my team-mates at Inter but there were some outside reasons that pushed me. Were they very far outside the dressing-room? Let's not get into those details."
It is the closest that Balotelli will come to mentioning the now-departed Mourinho.
Balotelli's parents are Ghanaian -- his family name is Barwuah -- and Ghana had hopes he might play for them, which were dashed when Balotelli was finally selected for Italy's 1-0 defeat by Ivory Coast at Upton Park this month.
He appeared on the cover of the Italian edition of Vanity Fair wrapped in the Italian tricolour; an image to deploy against the chants of 'there are no black Italians' with which he has been baited.
"Racism is something that has really bothered me," he said. "But I have learned how to deal with it. That is not to pretend that it doesn't hurt. As far as I know, there is no racism in English football but there were two or three incidents in Italy that were quite bad."
As if to reinforce his reputation for being difficult, no sooner had Balotelli agreed to rejoin Mancini at Eastlands than he announced he would rather have stayed in Italy.
"I said I was very sorry to leave Italy because I have my family and friends there," Balotelli replied. "But, professionally, I am very happy to be coming to Manchester."
It is easy to forget he is still very young -- he is just 20 -- and his upbringing has been difficult. He was sent out to be fostered by Francesco and Silvia Balotelli after a life-threatening intestinal illness.
"Italy is a difficult place for young people," he said. "They seem to have problems in every field of life. In Italy it is not so easy for a young player to emerge. After Milan, Manchester seems a nice, quiet city, apart from the paparazzi who have pursued me ever since I got here."
It seems as if his reputation precedes him; he might have to get used to it. (© Independent News Service)