On Friday, as Manchester City practised ahead of their match against Bolton, Mario Balotelli enhanced his ‘trouble-maker’ reputation by aggressively confronting his team-mate Jérôme Boateng. The player who José Mourinho once labelled as “unmanageable” continues to serve as an illustration how detrimental such characters can be within a football club.
Balotelli is not alone in his fractious temperament, however. Nor is yesterday’s ‘disagreement’ between two of the squad members in an isolated incident. Manchester City have thrust together stars from across Europe in a haphazard manner and, as such, it comes as no surprise that reports are saying that tensions within the side are rife.
Carlos Tevez has been remarkably open about his disillusionment with the game, noting the attitudes of footballers as his main reason for falling out of love with football. Moreover, the City captain’s reaction to being substituted yesterday highlights the growing unrest within the club. Emmanuel Adebayor, meanwhile, has been cited as another problematic character. The Togo striker has only succeeded to warm the bench so far this season and is seemingly unwilling to patiently wait for his opportunity to be back in the limelight.
To make matters worse, Manchester City have been airing some of these disputes publicly. There have now been mid-match, on-the-field arguments between James Milner and Yaya Touré as well as Adebayor and Kompany. Needless to say, such conditions are in no way conducive with winning football matches or, indeed, winning titles.
The club may have attempted to play down the latest fracas between their own players, claiming it is merely “a reflection of the competitive edge the players apply to training”, but this cannot detract from the club’s growing problems. Mercurial-at-best on the field and fragmented off it, City have been igniting in the wrong way of late.
Mancini’s man-management skills have been put to the test and he seems to be struggling. It is an unenviable task but is one that is part and parcel of managing any team with such a collection of stars. Unlike the approach of teams like Manchester United or Arsenal, City have plucked high calibre players with huge price tags and tried to build a team around them. Massive wages and even bigger egos stand as daunting obstacles on his and their road to success.
City sit fourth following their 1-0 home win over Bolton yesterday. Their performances, however, remain largely disappointing. They still seem to be a team void of an identity, unsure of how to play. Such has been the rapid and dramatic change that has taken place at Eastlands this is perhaps not surprising.
Nevertheless, while they continue to pick up points, the signs are all pointing to trouble behind the scenes. If only half of the rumours and reports are true, the apple cart would appear to be well and truly upset. Personally, I think that Mancini’s days are numbered. Replacing the manager is always the easiest solution for the board so it seems likely that the scarf-wearing Italian is only a string of bad results away from getting the proverbial boot.