TEAMtalk guest blogger Rich Kitto fears Mario Balotelli's capacity to self-destruct will make him one of football's great wasted talents.
As Balotelli seems unrelenting in throwing away the glorious opportunities that so many of us have dreamt of, I find myself asking not why always him, but simply - why him anyway?
A first hat-trick to fire your team top of the Premier League, coming off the bench to slot home an injury-time winning penalty, turning out for your country, or a sublime opener that instigated a demolition of your biggest enemy - Balotelli has already experienced those moments that we have wished for since we first threw a slack right foot towards an approaching round object.
Loosely, they are moments that have shaped our existence. There was the inevitability surrounding the answer to the teacher's question 'what do you want to be when you grow up?', the first school match when you played the all-encompassing role of defender, midfielder and goalscorer, then years later the disheartening realisation that it 'probably won't be you but that won't stop your over-exuberance in an inter-IT department kickabout.
So the sultry striker, who regularly fills the columns of the front and back pages, is living out 'our script' yet, as Roberto Mancini described in the aftermath of his third sending-off for Manchester City, there is a sense of inevitability that his footballing future looks to be cut short.
Balotelli's story so far has been one worthy of a James Cameron blockbuster. Although it's heavily publicised that way, life has not always been about flash clothes, fast cars and fireworks for Mario. Born to Ghanaian immigrants and adopted by the Balotelli family at the age of three, he made his professional debut for Lumezzane, a small-town club in the province of Brescia, at the tender age of 15.
Coming on as a substitute, his first act was to nutmeg an opposition player (a piece of artistry that we can still associate with the enigmatic forward) though what we cannot appreciate is the level of racial slurs thrown his way that day and throughout his short Italian career. Such was the level of hatred from some sections of Juventus supporters during his days at Internazionale that there were chants of 'if we jump, Balotelli will die' at games that didn't feature the latter team.
His tempestuous relationship with Jose Mourinho, who described him as "unmanageable", and negative reactions from his own fans (which, granted, was not helped when he appeared on Italian TV in a Milan shirt) certainly did not make his situation any easier, and soon he was frozen out completely. These are certainly aspects of his life that Mario, to his credit, has dealt extremely well with, that nobody would wish upon themselves.
His move from Milan to Manchester, from Mourinho to Mancini, was seen to be the steady sequel, where our central character followed a predestined path to glory and riches taking his team with him, but alas when has it ever been that predictable? Sunday's late sending-off against Arsenal - in which he was extremely fortunate to still be on the pitch after a wild, high challenge on Alex Song - could be the final chapter at City for Balotelli and possibly his extremely loyal, perhaps foolhardy, manager.
After all, Mancini is a manager that saw enough talent in the youngster to part with over £20million, and his reputation, and so far the powerful frontman has not done enough to justify the faith.
Balotelli is clearly a very talented footballer. He is direct, powerful, and has the ability to change a game. He is also an extremely refreshing, enthralling and entertaining person at times off the field, but does not seem to recognise the unbelievable opportunities in front of him. At merely 21 years of age (and it's been said many times), he could go on to become a world-beater, gaining stardom for all the right reasons, and it is this vast potential that has given him extra time, but the feeling now is that the added-time board is being readied with '2' or '3' on the display.
Balotelli must not forget the debt he owes to his team-mates, his manager and ultimately his supporters - those tens of thousands of people who give up their weekends to travel the land just to watch him for 90 minutes, who work long days to emblazon his name on the back of their shirts, who live their greatest dreams vicariously through him and who yearn to experience what life would be like with his unquestionable ability.
I write this piece with almost a sense of bitterness. Why him, and not me, that's given this chance? But for all it's worth, it would be a great shame, and a huge waste, if in years to come people looked at him as an example of how to reach your dream, and then give it up.