He came, he saw, he let off a firework in his own house and got booked quite a lot. Yes, the Premier League is one maverick lunatic light now that Manchester City have finally lost patience with Mario Balotelli and Liverpool’s visit to the Etihad Stadium on Sunday is the first match to be played AM (After Mario).
City boss Roberto Mancini was visibly upset that his protégé headed back to Italy to sign for his boyhood club AC Milan in a £19 million transfer and in some ways this is understandable.
Balotelli, after all, remains a prodigiously talented young footballer despite all the baggage and if he can get his head right he still could, maybe, become a real player.
But you have to doubt if that will ever happen. His off-field antics are well documented (even if it is difficult to know what is true and what has been mythologised) but the fact is you could put up with that if he was doing it on the pitch.
However, a measly total of 20 league goals in two-and-a-half years – and just one this season – is a very poor return and it is with a heavy heart that we must now hear about Super Mario’s wacky adventures from afar.
Of more importance to Mancini is how this will affect the champions’ defence of their Premier League crown.
You would think not a great deal: Balotelli has hardly featured in the league since being sent off at Arsenal in April and when he did, such as his start in the Manchester derby, he was so ineffective he was a detriment to the team.
But with his side going into the weekend seven points behind Manchester United, Mancini could do with all the help he can get and being one forward down, even an erratic and unreliable one, is not ideal, especially when his remaining forwards are enduring a tough time.
Mancini has openly criticised his star strikers this year and he has a point. Carlos Tevez has scored just once in his last 11 games and only seven times in the league all year, while Sergio Aguero has three in his last 13 and just eight league goals this campaign.
Both need to click into gear if City are going to claw back that deficit, because a United collapse that handed Mancini the title last year is unlikely to happen two years running.
The 0-0 draw at QPR in midweek summed up the problem and City can ill afford many more off-days if they want to prevent United cruising to the championship.
That said, the clean sheet at Loftus Road was the Citizens’ sixth in succession and City had won eight out of the previous nine in all competitions.
But if they have had troubles on the road, they still remain impenetrable at the Etihad, as I think Liverpool will find out on Sunday.
City are 83/100 to win the match and that looks like a great bet to me. The draw is 11/4 and the away win is at the same price, but I don’t see Liverpool being capable of putting a dent in City’s immaculate home record and, by proxy, their title chances.
The Reds’ highly entertaining 2-2 draw with Arsenal at the Emirates on Wednesday showed the best and worst of Liverpool and while there were encouraging signs for Brendan Rodgers to talk about (and talk about them he surely will, endlessly), there is still much work to do and work-in-progress teams don’t get a result in the blue half of Manchester these days.
The draw in north London – a result we corrected predicted, incidentally – means that Liverpool are still to win a match against a side currently in the top half of the division and it is a bit of a stretch to suggest that they will break their duck at the home of the champions, who have lost just one match at the Etihad, to Manchester United, since December 2010.
That is a run of 41 home league games, 36 of which have been won, and I think it makes the 83/100 a really good bet. As if it needs saying, City are far, far better than Liverpool and they should probably be shorter to beat a team who have won just three of their 12 away trips this campaign.
Liverpool have struggled at the Etihad since the money came rolling in for City, too. The Merseysiders have failed to score in five of their last six trips in the league and were roundly beaten 3-0 on both of their last two league visits.
All in all, that 83/100 looks tasty and you should be getting involved.