Los Angeles Soccer: James Milner
CARSON -- Mario Balotelli took a defense-splitting pass from David Silva and bore down 1-on-1 with Galaxy goalkeeper Josh Saunders. One touch and Manchester City's lead would be two goals not quite a half-hour into its friendly Sunday afternoon at Home Depot Center.
What Balotelli did next was inexplicable.
The Italian striker of Ghanaian descent, whose troubled background makes for one of soccer's most interesting personalities, decided to have a little fun. He pirouetted about 10 yards from the net, pulling the ball with his left foot, then tried to backheel it past Saunders. It went wide.
That was it for Balotelli, who was quickly hustled off the field by Man City manager Roberto Mancini, gave his boss an Italian salute (something akin to flipping the bird), then stormed to the end of the bench and plopped down.
Might this be the end of the Blues' experiment with the former Inter Milan star? Hardly.
“I think that we need to be always professional, always serious, and for me in that case, Mario wasn't professional,” said Mancini, a former Italian national-teamer who starred at Sampdoria and Lazio. “And for this, I change. ...
“Mario is young, sometimes he make mistake, but I want to help him always. I think this could be a lesson. If Mario serious, if he play serious, he can play like the first 25 minutes -- he played well, he worked, he scored goal on penalty [to give Man City a 20th-minute lead]. But after, no. ... For me, it's finished now. I hope that for him, it's an important lesson.”
It was a bizarre moment in an at-times invigorating match in the World Football Challenge series of friendlies that finished 1-1. Galaxy coach Bruce Arena called it “odd, to be honest with you,” but didn't want to talk about whether Balotelli disrespected his team with the maneuver.
Mike Magee, who scored the second-half equalizer, was willing to weigh in.
“It's not something I would do,” Magee said. “We might be a step down from the [English Premier League] as far as leagues and stuff, but we know we're good. If that was a 6-0 game and he does that, probably someone would have had a whack on him. ...
“Me, personally, I don't care what the guy does.”