James Lawton: Mancini has duty to stamp out Balotelli's behaviour
Someone should explain to Manchester City that Mario Balotelli could score a thousand extraordinary goals, exceed Mother Teresa in examples of spell-binding charity, and still have lingering shame against his name and his club's for what he did to Scott Parker.
Not only was the act despicable, so were its origins. They were rooted in a terrible failure of discipline.
It has been said ad nauseam that with Balotelli you have to take the best and live with the rest, but there is a point where the position is untenable if you care seriously for your reputation as champions-elect, as an organisation hell-bent on attaching a certain weight and character to the increasingly brilliant football fuelled by unprecedented wealth.
Whatever remarkable facility he displays on the field – and already he has shown us much of that – he cannot dislodge the fear that when Roberto Mancini sends him out it is with the implicit understanding that anything can happen – and when the manager embraces this reality he surrenders one of the basic tenets of his job.
A manager is obliged to trust each of his players, whatever their individual ability, to operate along certain professional standards. City are blessed with a growing number of players who respond to such expectations.
The recent form of such as Gareth Barry and James Milner, while no doubt overshadowed by the sheer virtuosity of Sergio Aguero and David Silva, has been quite stunning in the absence of Yaya Touré and Vincent Kompany. Their sense of the team's needs has been overwhelming.
Yet Balotelli is allowed to do what comes to him most naturally.
We know now that this includes stamping on the head of a fallen opponent. The incident apparently provoked an onset of myopia among club officials and, on at least one national talk show, City supporters appeared to be lining up in their belief that this was another example of a media vendetta against a misunderstood young man. But what ambiguity is there in the decision, at risk of heavens know what consequences, to bring your foot down on the unprotected head of an opponent? Parker escaped with a cut on his brow. He could have been blinded. That might have been one result of the latest Ballotelli firework show. Such events, we are constantly told, should be tightly supervised.
Unfortunately in this case, what happens is apparently beyond anyone's control or, even more dismayingly, conscience.