TORONTO -- With reports surfacing that Inter Milan are prepared to transfer Mario Balotelli to Manchester City for a fee in the range of 30 million Euros, the young star's tumultuous time with the club seems to be at an end.
The 19-year-old Balotelli is a supremely gifted player with the ability to use his strength and quickness to elude opponents and create quality scoring opportunities. Even at a young age, the skill set the young Italian possesses is of an elite nature.
Should Balotelli continue to progress, he could eventually become one of the best players in the world, a factor that makes his sale a reluctant one for Inter. It should be noted that Inter does not need to sell Balotelli at this point as a result of any financial constraints - they're choosing to because of issues with his character.
While Balotelli does possess top-level skill, his mental stability and petulant behavior has caused concerns in Milan, so much so that some fellow teammates reportedly want to see him removed from the team's roster. Spats with Inter fans and former coach Jose Mourinho are well-documented, while his appearance on national television wearing heated rival AC Milan's jersey did not sit well with Inter supporters, to say the least.
So intense were his issues with Mourinho that he was benched for long stretches throughout the season, the last for throwing his jersey on the ground after fans booed him for a poor display in a Champions League match against Barcelona.
Balotelli is without question lacking maturity at this point in his career, yet it didn't stop some of the top clubs in Europe from inquiring about his services. The growing pains for Balotelli have been a constant throughout his career, but were not surprising given that he's been under the microscope since the age of 17.
His conflicts with coaches and fellow players are alarming, but will likely lessen once Balotelli matures in age and is taken under the wing by an established soccer mind. Balotelli's former Inter coach and current Manchester boss Roberto Mancini seems adept at taking on such a challenge and it's one that could reap huge benefits for both Balotelli and Mancini.
Considering his age, the risk of bringing in Balotelli from a Manchester City point-of-view is minimal, and the club's new owners have declared they'll spend whatever money is necessary to compete in the English Premier League, along with contending in other European competitions.
The risk is much greater for Inter, considering the club's reputation in parts of Italy. With a roster boasting very few Italian players, the sale of Balotelli will likely not sit well with purists who believe Italian clubs should groom their own home-grown players over foreigners. While the sale amount of 30 million Euros is nothing to groan about, if Balotelli is able to put both his mental and physical game together, he will likely be worth double that amount in a few short years.
With Rafa Benitez taking over the club from departed manager Jose Mourinho, the opportunity is there for a fresh start for Balotelli at Inter. The Spanish manager has the chance to instill a vote of confidence in the young star that he felt was waning with Mourinho. Whether or not Balotelli has burned too many bridges over the last few seasons to make that possibility a reality is questionable at this point. One thing that's not in question is Balotelli's skill set, but whether he takes advantage of such talent is squarely on the shoulders of the young Italian himself.
It's said that patience is a virtue and, in the case of Balotelli, it could prove either a catastrophic risk or magnificent judgement. At this point, it seems to be a 50-50 proposition but one that could see Manchester City benefit much more than Inter Milan, should the sale go through.