The Italian returns to Milan, the city where he made his name, but to AC rather than cross town rivals Inter. Balotelli has never disguised his affection for the Rossoneri, even arriving at training sporting Milan socks during his spell with Inter.
His departure comes in the wake of a training ground fracas with Mancini; the altercation was the last in a series of controversies during his time in Manchester.
His off-field activities attracted just as much attention as his performances. From throwing darts at a youth-team player, to setting his house on fire by lighting fireworks in his bathroom, Balotelli was rarely out of the headlines.
Initially he also delivered on the pitch, playing a pivotal role in helping City capture their first title since 1968. He scored two goals in his side’s 6-1 victory over Manchester United and set up Sergio Aguero’s injury-time winner against QPR which sealed the title on the final day of last season.
After scoring against United he famously lifted his jersey to reveal a t-shirt emblazoned with the words ‘Why always me’, alluding to the constant media scrutiny of his life. Yet it remained always him and the training ground altercation ultimately persuaded Mancini to usher Balotelli toward the Etihad exit.
His performances over the past 12 months also meant he had become expendable, increasingly starting games from the bench. Aside from a scintillating display against Germany in the European Championship semi-final this summer, the Italian has rarely looked like the player many believed he would become.
This season he has managed just 3 goals for City, not enough to warrant his manager’s continued patience. Mancini often stated that he believed Balotelli had the potential to be the best player in the world. The player himself argued that only Barcelona’s Lionel Messi stood above him at the summit of the world game.
However, his performances failed to live up to his boasts and he returns to Italy as he left, a talent unfulfilled. His eccentricities, both on and away from the field will insure he goes down in Premiership folklore.
Mancini had always insisted his patience with the player was “limitless”, often comparing their relationship to that of a father and son. Eventually Balotelli’s constant errs and increasing failure to produce on the pitch exhausted his manager’s patience.
Balotelli’s time at City is a case of what might have been, rather than why always me, but the Premiership will be much duller without him.