April 20, 2010
It's been a few weeks since the last time Mario Balotelli drew the ire of everyone around him, so it shouldn't be a surprise that despite Inter Milan's tremendous 3-1 Champions League victory over Barcelona on Wednesday, those inside the San Siro still made a point to attack him. Literally.
After making a mistake on a counter-attack during the game, some Inter fans -- perhaps still upset that he wore an AC Milan shirt on TV last month -- jeered Balotelli, who responded by (supposedly) giving them the finger, then throwing his shirt on the ground once the final whistle blew. According to former Inter striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Marco Materazzi then went after the troubled 19-year-old. Ibra told Italy's Rai TV:
“I saw that Materazzi was attacking him in the players' tunnel and I've never seen anything like it.
“If I were him, I'd have left Mario alone, but Materazzi was attacking him and I was stunned. If Materazzi had attacked me like that, I would've decked him in a second!
“Materazzi was causing all sorts of trouble and in the Barcelona locker room we were amazed, all talking about it. A player should be proud after a win, not chase down a 20-year-old to berate him.”
And it didn't end there for Balotelli, who was hounded by a horde of fans with access to the stadium's parking area. Escorted by stewards and even Inter owner Massimo Moratti, Balotelli finally made it out in his Batmobile-like car without getting killed. He remained the subject of conversation, though.
Said Jose Mourinho, who also exchanged terse words with Mario right after the game:
"I have been at Inter since July 2008. If I try to remember all the times I've tried to educate a great talent, there are thousands and thousands. This is a Champions League semi-final, the second most important tie in club football, and something ugly happened."
"Balotelli's gesture was terrible. Just terrible," he said. "It is something we are going to have to discuss. Will he be punished? Absolutely, yes."
Moratti, meanwhile, realized the true meaning of the night was lost on getting worked up over the actions of a misguided teenager:
“He’s a youngster, this thing happened and in all honesty I’d prefer to think about the victory.
“This is a wound that will heal and could be a life lesson that’ll prove useful for him.”
Those life lessons keep adding up for Balotelli, but they don't seem to be proving useful yet. The transfer window really can't open soon enough for him.