Why penalty-gate has been blown out of all proportion.
Controversy seems to follow Mario Balotelli wherever he goes, but it must be said that some of the time it is the fault of the media for pouncing on every little thing he does. And in the case of his penalty against Besiktas last night, his team-mates have not helped him out either.
You’ve all seen it by now. The Italian international took the ball off Jordan Henderson when Liverpool were awarded a penalty. He wasn’t on penalty duty, with Henderson first choice to deputise for the absent Steven Gerrard, but he continued his excellent record from spot kicks and tucked the ball away to seal a crucial 1-0 win.
Daniel Sturridge kicked up a fuss in the build-up, even though Henderson had clearly accepted Balotelli’s request to take the penalty instead. And why not? After all, the England midfielder has only taken one career penalty in the past – and he missed it. Balotelli, meanwhile, is clearly a specialist, and his team-mates, Sturridge and Gerrard (who criticised the striker on punditry duty), could have been a little wiser to the fact that he was looking for a goal after a difficult season at Anfield.
Scoring the winner in this fixture, following up a recent strike against Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League, could help Balotelli’s confidence grow. For all his behavioural problems, everyone knows the 24-year-old is potentially a world class talent at his best and one who just needs to settle at a club and enjoy an extended run of games without distraction. After months of trying to get the best out of the player, and so much being put into his behaviour and discipline before they signed him from AC Milan, Liverpool have now brought more unwanted attention on the player all by themselves.
Quite what Sturridge’s issue with Henderson’s decision could be is baffling, and suggests more than anything else that he and others have a personal problem with Balotelli. In fairness to Henderson, he did the right thing, not letting the responsibility of the captain’s armband inflate his ego and persuade him he had to replace Gerrard in being the matchwinner and hero. He simply stepped aside and let the better penalty taker have a go. The rest, as they say, is history, and it is baffling that this debate has gone on for as long as it has.
Everyone loves a good Balotelli story, even when there basically isn’t one. Why always him? Because he sells.