I didn't want to leave it until after the game to write about Mario Balotelli, so I got up early this morning to throw some thoughts together.
The transfer policy this summer has largely been about recruiting young, ambitious, talented players from the continent. Balotelli fits this template, but also exceeds it. He is the Mancini/Marwood approach maximally realised. He is the youngest of our signings, having only turned 20 this week. As a August 1990 boy, he is only three months older than Dedryck Boyata and almost a year younger than Vladimir Weiss.
And then there's the ability. Balotelli is, pace David Silva, the most talented of our summer recruits. He is a potential future Ballon d'Or winner, and I can't remember the last City player I could say that about. (In an alternative universe Kinkladze would have dazzled at Ajax then moved on to Juventus, I guess.) As an athlete he is terrifying (as are more and more of our players), but he marries that imposing natural physique to a technical ability that still eludes, to pluck a name out of the air, Micah Richards. He is a wonderfully clean striker of the ball, has a good first touch and holds the ball up well. Mancini has spoken of his versatility, and I'm sure he'll be used in a range of positions. He could lead the line (in fact he might be a better target man than Adebayor), he could come off the left or the right or even play second striker apparently. I don't think he'll play every game this season but nobody will. He brings options, dynamism and the promise of more to come.
His signing also represents a further buttressing of Mancini's authority at the club. Some might have said that Mancini's exclusion of Craig Bellamy shows a dislike for temperamental players. But signing Balotelli shows that temperament matters much less than loyalty. Balotelli might be a maverick loudmouth but he's a maverick loudmouth will deep and mutual affection for Roberto Mancini. Bellamy - a similar character in some ways - has always been loyal to Mark Hughes, and his relationship with Mancini was predictably poor. By signing Balotelli Mancini has brought in a real loyalist and made clear that pining for the Hughes era is pointless.