Italy has lived all week pending the fate of a man named Mario. His impervious humor, his chances of becoming head of state, and the effect on the markets of the disappointment his eyes would telegraph if he was ultimately not elected were scrutinized. While Mario Draghi, the favorite son of Goldman Sachs, was waiting for a call at the Chigi Palace to become president of the Republic, another Mario, a Palermo son of Ghanaian immigrants, also nicknamed SuperMario, after the most famous plumber of the 80s, returned from the Turkish shadows to take advantage of the penultimate opportunity that life offers you. Balotelli (31 years old), so many times determined to bury his gift based on wonderful damage, has been summoned by Mancini for the stage that the Nazionale is doing these days, after three years without seeing his hair. He is delighted. The news, however, does not speak particularly well of the country’s ability to manufacture strikers.
Certainty and bluntness can be a symptom of rudeness in a nation accustomed to reaching agreements. Almost nothing is usually definitive in Italy. You leave convinced, but you can always come back. The presidents of the Council of Ministers, for example, never finish leaving. Some like Giulio Andreotti repeat seven times; others like Silvio Berlusconi, four; there are those who, like Matteo Renzi, become an uncomfortable parliamentarian who moves the chair of the leader of the day. But also presidents like Mattarella are forced to repeat in office because the country is incapable of generating a new ruling class. In football, exactly that happens in some positions. Balotelli’s return is also a symptom of another evil: calcium’s lack of goals.
A player today for Adama Demirspor (he has eight goals and four assists), trained by his compatriot Vincenzo Montella, Balotelli has purged his sins in the Italian Serie B (Brescia and Monza) and in Turkish football. Now it is one more step in the desperate attempt of Roberto Mancini, one of his godfathers, to recover the gunpowder in the Azzurri forward. Four months ago there was a stir when the coach summoned Lorenzo Lucca, a young player from Pisa (in Serie B), called to solve the drought in the opposite area to take Italy to the World Cup. Also with the FederCalcio swaps to nationalize at full speed João Pedro, a 29-year-old Brazilian from Cagliari. Now, in a critical situation in which Italy will play qualifying for the winter championship in Qatar, it will be up to the good Balotelli to solve the problem. “Why always me?” He complained in a famous phrase that he stamped on his shirt when he played for Mancini’s Manchester City. Well, simply because there is no one else.
Euro 2021 was Prozac in vein for a low-spirited Italy. But at the same time, it has become a thick layer of cheap makeup for a series of endemic calcium ills that have not been resolved in recent years. “Dribbling in Italy is an intruder, an enemy. There will only be about 20 players practicing it. With the exception of Sacchi, we have privileged muscle and pressure”, said the great Gianni Mura in a report for this newspaper three years ago, shortly before he died. It was and still is. Today only three of the top 10 Serie A scorers are Italian. And the first is Ciro Immobile, a phenomenon that always arrives almost dry at the Nazionale.
Mancini has only had bad news since lifting the European Championship. On the brink of the abyss for the Qatar World Cup, Italy will have to play it out in the playoff with teams like Portugal without strikers Federico Chiesa and Andrea Belotti. Balotelli, as things stand, is the active striker with the best scoring average for the national team: 14 goals in 36 games. All of Italy knows that he is not a trustworthy guy. But Mancini was one of his great promoters and he knows how to treat him. SuperMario promised his father before he died that he would return to the Nazionale. So be it.
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