Mario Balotelli had an uncanny ability to wind people up.
While ‘Super Mario’ might have mellowed somewhat by his standards in recent years, there’s no denying that his rollercoaster first few years at the top of professional football rustled plenty of feathers.
Whether it was leaving Jose Mourinho tearing his hair out or scrapping with Roberto Mancini in training, Balotelli certainly caused his fair share of stressful moments during those early days at Inter Milan and Manchester City.
Totti vs Balotelli
However, few people have reacted quite as angrily to Balotelli’s antics as Francesco Totti, who is widely regarded as one of the greatest male players in the history of Italian football.
The infinitely gifted midfielder and forward made over 750 appearances for AS Roma as a one-club man between 1992 and 2017, but his legendary career could in fact have ended seven years before that.
And Balotelli would have played a key role in that decision had Totti followed it through because the Roma legend was left with a lot of thinking to do on the back of the 2010 Coppa Italia final.
Totti’s vicious red card
“Why?” you ask. Well, because Totti’s patience had run so thin with Balotelli that he produced what must go down as one of the most cynical fouls of the century to earn himself an instant red card.
In what proved to be a 1-0 defeat for the Romans as Mourinho’s Inter secured another piece of their treble puzzle, Totti came on as a second-half substitute but wasn’t able to make it to the final whistle.
As Balotelli made an impressive run down the left-hand flank with Inter leading in the dying minutes of the game, Totti decided enough was enough and hacked him down with a ruthless kick.
The Inter striker was duly chopped down like a tree in a moment so remarkable that a YouTube video of the incident amassed no less than 16 million views. So be sure to check it out for yourself down below:
Goodness me. What on earth were you thinking, Francesco?
Why did Totti do it?
Well, although Totti didn’t go into the exact details as to why he was so fuming with the Italian once tipped to succeed Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, he did indeed confirm that the Inter starlet had wound him up.
According to Football Italia, Totti told La Repubblica in 2018: “My kick at Balotelli? He’d been provocative for years. He insulted me and the Roma fans. It was building up and then it exploded.
“It was a horrible foul, just to hurt him. But then, strangely, the Inter players didn’t confront me.
“As I left the field, Maicon even gave me five. The feeling was that even among his teammates, Balotelli created some irritation.”
Totti almost retired
But what were we saying about Totti’s career potentially being cut short? Well, because it was one of the final games in a season that made the Italian maestro really think about his future in football.
To such a degree, in fact, that a contemporary report from Sky Sports explained how Totti “admitted he considered retirement following last season’s Coppa Italia final.”
It’s explained that Totti’s foul was so cynical that he received a four-match Coppa Italia ban spilling over into the 2010/11 season and that the outrage had such an effect on him that he could have called it a day if it wasn’t for the intervention of those close to him.
“There was a time when I thought about quitting,” Totti revealed later in 2010. “I thought about it because of what happened, on and off the pitch.”
And while everyone in football was extremely thankful for the fact that Totti continued to spread his magic for a few more years, it really does go to show just how big of an impact Balotelli’s mind games could have.
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