Tuesday 29 January 2013

Milan's Work Begins with Balotelli

La Gazzetta dello Sport announces Balotelli's arrival in Milan
There has been much said about him.  His intractability, his talent, his race, his implosions, even his intestinal disorder as a youngster.  The aggregate of such complexities, the everlasting muse for the blogosphere, forums, and youtube, Mario Balotelli, will make his way to Milanello tomorrow to start anew at the age of twenty-two.

The debate that everyone has been rehearsing about his move from Manchester City to Milan is hooked to his past because his past on its own could design a curriculum.  Balotelli is the ultimate case study, a player who flummoxed Jose Mourinho, prompting the normally resilient Portuguese to label him "unmanageable."  He is a player who has inspired stories that bow to his realities.  But despite his expansiveness, Balotelli is Balotelli, the perfectly poised reflexive property--it is for the rest of us to figure him out.

Not least Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri.  When the delirium of Balotelli's 23 million euros move dissipates, the dread will undoubtedly descend.  Balotelli is the signal talent of Italy in the striker department, but his talent coruscates only when coaxed, or, perhaps more fittingly, conjured.  No one has really been able to figure out lastingly the formula, the incantation.  Italy coach Cesare Prandelli managed to do it for transient moments during Euro2012, but sustaining Balotelli and his talent for a season or seasons seems crushingly difficult.

Allegri successfully managed Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Antonio Cassano during a Scudetto winning season--not exactly the retiring types.  However, Ibrahimovic may have had a difficult character but he was always committed to his teams on the field.  And for all of Cassano's problems, he came to Milan at the age of almost thirty.  His outburst at the late Riccardo Garrone notwithstanding, Cassano, by his standards, was his own demur version by the time he signed for Milan.

Balotelli, however, is still young and unapologetically capricious. While Milan is renowned for having an atmosphere that demands conformity, the task of Balotelli will be the club's and Allegri's toughest assignment.

To talk about the potential that a partnership of Balotelli and Stephan El Sharaawy has is intoxicating, especially given the latter's form this season.  But to see that potential in kinesis for seasons to come will be the only vindication for Milan.  It is simply not enough for Balotelli to spark here and there: the time has come to modulate his talent for longevity.

Milan vice-president Adriano Galliani deserves applause for pulling off yet another cut-price deal for a top player, but in Balotelli's case the work has only now begun.