Mario Balotelli, the 23-year-old striker who will lead Italy into the 2014 World Cup, has been one of the great joys of following soccer in recent years.
He has provided moments of pure genius on the field, and moments of pure entertainment off of it.
Whether it’s burning down his bathroom with a firework, camouflaging his Bentley, or holding a private audience with the Pope, Balotelli never seems to be too far from the gossip pages.
He’s also a big spender, with a bunch of cars and a life-sized statue of himself.
He wore cleats covered in his own newspaper headlines when Nike, Adidas, and Puma were all bidding for his signature in 2013.
He had to temporarily move out of the house in 2012 after fireworks at his birthday party burned down his bathroom.
In December 2012, he accepted a $US570,000 fine for (among other things) stomping on an opponent's head and getting suspended.
(image url='http://static.businessinsider.com/image/4f1dca66ecad04cc2a000023/balotelliparker.gif' alt='Balotelli stomps on scott parker's head gif' link='lightbox' size='secondary' align='right' clear='true')
Source: Manchester Evening News
In 2011 he unveiled a 'Why Always Me?' shirt after scoring a goal against Manchester United. Such shirts have since been banned by FIFA.
For all his antics on and off the field, he's relatively harmless. He's not hurting anyone or getting in any real trouble.
He showed a glimpse of the real Mario when he hugged his adoptive mother, Silvia, after a Euro 2012 game.
He has suffered racial abuse throughout his career, even from Italy fans, but has always responded with class.
In perfect Mario fashion, he announced his arrival in Brazil by posting a photo of himself as Christ the Redeemer.
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