Did Balotelli disrespect PSG? (Reuters)
Super Mario knows just how to rub salt in the wound.
On Sunday, Mario Balotelli and his Nice side saw to it that back-to-back-to-back-to-back French champions Paris Saint-Germain had a rather rotten night in the Southern French town.
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Not only did the controversial Italian score the opening goal in a 3-1 win for the home team that dealt PSG its first defeat since mid-December. But the victory also saw to it that leaders Monaco could open up a three-point gap over PSG. With a game in hand, no less.
Balo’s goal was rather lovely.
But it’s what he did later in the game that was classic Mario. He received a ball along the sidelines, brought it down, faced up to Thomas Meunier and began dancing on the ball to the delight of the home crowd. The Belgian was fairly chill about it. But his teammate Blaise Matuidi was not. He came charging in and barreled into Balotelli, earning Nice a free kick in a useful spot.
Meunier was clearly annoyed with Matuidi. But his other teammates mostly wanted to take this up with Balotelli for his little outburst of joy, clearly seen as disrespect.
We’re all for the resurgence of Balotelli, especially if it comes coupled with his ever-entertaining antics. He has led Nice to a surprising third place, where it holds a 20-point lead over fourth-place Lyon.
Balotelli’s 14 league goals make this the first time in three years that he’s cracked double digits. He did it three years in a row from the 2011-12 through the 2013-14 seasons – once with Manchester City and then twice with AC Milan. But a disastrous return to England with Liverpool and a failed second stint with Milan precipitated the plummeting stock of the striker who was once considered among the best prospects in Europe – and labelled “uncoachable” by Jose Mourinho at Inter Milan.
Scooped up by Nice, Balotelli, still only 26, is now more serious and consistent than ever. And with one more league goal, he will have a career year. In the process, he has reestablished himself as a potentially useful piece for some bigger club next season. He is a free agent this summer, after all.
And while it’s probably a good thing that Balotelli has stopped setting fire to his own bathroom or dressing up like Santa months before Christmas and handing out money to strangers, we hope he never stops dancing on the field.
Leander Schaerlaeckens is a soccer columnist for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter @LeanderAlphabet.