Mario Balotelli is taking Manchester City to a Premier League tribunal this week, raising the specter of another messy legal wrangle between the English champions and another of their volatile strikers.
Last season, it was Argentina international Carlos Tevez who was in open conflict with City, refusing to come on as a substitute in a Champions League game and then embarking on a self-imposed three-month exile in his native country.
Now it’s Balotelli’s turn to take on the new powers of English football at the culmination of a bitter, eight-month dispute.
The hot-tempered Italy star is reportedly attempting to overturn a heavy fine imposed by City last season for his on-pitch indiscipline that saw him miss a total of 11 games because of suspensions during the 2011-12 campaign.
City is believed to have fined Balotelli 340,000 pounds ($550,000) – two weeks’ wages – with reports saying the club has already dismissed an appeal from the striker ahead of an independent tribunal in London on Wednesday.
British and Italian media are claiming the relationship between City and Balotelli is close to breaking point, with the player currently out of favor with manager Roberto Mancini after being dropped from the squad for Saturday’s match at Newcastle.
”He needs to train more,” Mancini said, when asked why Balotelli wasn’t in City’s 18-man squad at St. James’ Park.
”He is not in good form at this moment and it was better for him that he continued to train and to train well.”
Whether it’s fireworks going off in his bathroom, reports of darts being thrown at colleagues or hot-headed tackles on the pitch, Balotelli has never been far from the headlines since joining from Inter Milan in the summer of 2010.
His most recent act for City was another outburst toward Mancini after being substituted early in the second half of the 3-2 loss to Manchester United on Dec. 9.