OPINION: Mario Balotelli's return to Italy is a loss for English football.
Like Liverpool's Luis Suarez, he is a precocious football talent who courts controversy. Balotelli, though, does not and may never possess a maturity level to match his football ability. For that he gets roundly criticised, and there is a degree of unfairness in that, particularly as his life is constantly under a microscope. Had he become a labourer, or gone on the dole, we would neither have a view on him nor care.
It's a situation not dissimilar from those the rugby and cricket bosses have to deal with occasionally here.
Life is about choices, and some people have an unhappy habit of making bad ones. Being great at a sport or becoming a star doesn't change that.
Balotelli's decision some years ago to don an AC Milan shirt, when pushed by a TV reporter, was a case in point. He was playing for Inter at the time, and it went down like a lead balloon.
Now, following a [PndStlg]19 million (NZ$36m) move, which sparked such celebrations in Milan that police tear-gassed supporters, he can wear it with pride.
And City only lost [PndStlg]6 million on him.
Lazio have been fined [PndStlg]120,000 as a result of the racist behaviour of their fans in Europa league matches against Spurs and Maribor. Uefa should have also banned them from European competitions.
Which is something I cunningly referred to because my next piece is on a former Lazio man, and, like Balotelli, a brilliant and controversial Italian. I don't have much time for Paolo di Canio's politics, but he was a remarkable footballer whose integrity showed when he caught a ball once rather than score, because the opposing goalkeeper was injured. He has clashed heads repeatedly with coaches, and then become one himself - at, and forgive me Town fans, unfashionable Swindon. There he has shown great talent as a manager - and recently offered to pay the wages of three players when the club could not. Now third tier Swindon are in such trouble they are poised to go into administration - though Banbury United owner Jed McCrory was attempting to complete a takeover this week.
Arsenal great Liam Brady will stand down as youth academy head next year, and it's suggested Dennis Bergkamp could take his place. Up until a few years ago, when the name became very popular here, if you found a youngster called Liam, it was almost certain he was the son of a Gooner.
Time's my enemy this week because the transfer deadline falls at 1pm today, so there's not a lot of point discussing the speculation. But Queen's Park Rangers boss Harry Redknapp was in the market - and chasing Peter Crouch and Chris Samba - while complaining that he only had 17 players to fill his 25-man squad.
Fulham are now a debt free football club . . . Didier Drogba has left Shanghai Shenhua to join Galatasaray - amid cries of foul from the Chinese - and team-mate Nicolas Anelka has left the club to join Juventus on loan . . . Everton walked away from a deal for FC Twente's Leroy Fer after he failed a medical this week.
Hats off to the Dutch referee Reinold Wiedemeijer, who took the teams off when he had heard enough of the racist abuse from morons supporting Den Bosch last weekend. The match against Alkmaar was eventually completed.
Ryan Nelsen completed his football league career by getting a guard of honour at the end of QPR's 0-0 draw with Manchester City. When Mark Hughes signed him for Blackburn I suggested the bad news was that Hughes was also chasing Bayern defender Thomas Linke, who eventually went to Austria. I didn't think Nelsen would make the grade - and neither did the Charlton management who had him on trial for a week before he went to Blackburn. I guess we can mark that down as another Pilott error. For the record, Nelsen finished two shy of 200 premier league appearances and is New Zealand's finest at that level. I suspect he must have gone close to making the PFA select XI at some stage.
On the move:
Nick Blackman Sheffield Utd-Reading, Philippe Coutinho Inter-Liverpool, Suk-Young Yun Chunnam Dragons-QPR, Anton Forrester Everton-Blackburn, Curtis Obeng Swansea- York, Kei Kamara Kansas-Norwich, Michael Hector Reading-Cheltenham, Lewis Holtby Schalke-Spurs, Scott Robertson Blackpool- Hibs. Loan, Reece Wabara Man City-Blackpool, Alan Hutton Villa-Mallorca, Anton Ferdinand QPR-Bursaspor, Declan Rudd Norwich- Preston, Jeremy Helan Man C-Sheffield Wed, Johnny Maddison Sunderland-Crawley, Jordan Gibbons QPR-Inverness, Michael Doughty QPR-St Johnstone, Richard Peniket Fulham- Telford, Robert Hulse QPR-Millwall, Emanuel Pogatetz Wolfsburg-West Ham, Mauro Boselli Wigan-Palermo, Ashley Richards Swansea- Crystal Palace, Charlie Taylor Leeds- Inverness, Emmanuel Frimpong Arsenal- Fulham, Leroy Lita Swansea-Sheffield Wed, Luke McCullough Man Utd-Cheltenham, Michael Ngoo Liverpool-Hearts, Souleymane Coulibaly Spurs-Grosseto, Craig Dawson West Brom-Bolton.
England, QPR v Norwich, Arsenal v Stoke, Everton v Aston Villa, Newcastle v Chelsea, Reading v Sunderland, West Ham v Swansea, Wigan v Southampton, Fulham v Man Utd. Sunday, West Brom v Spurs, Man City v Liverpool. Scotland, Ross County v Hearts. Scotish Cup, fifth round.
- Taranaki Daily News
Does more need to be done to protect NZ passports?