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LTGN followers of a certain vintage may remember last year's Round Carlos' House series, in which the diminutive Argentinian striker was subjected to a Through The Keyhole style forensic examination of his domestic trials and tribulations.
This week's news of the ten-round battle on the training ground between our beloved double-act, Mario and Bobby, has been followed by much press speculation about whether the madcap Italian (and indeed which madcap Italian) would remain at Etihad Road beyond January.
So, with a sense of now-or-never, LTGN girded its loins and decided to pay a visit to Chez Balotelli - before it became too late.
In fact, our wacky Italian Stallion has only just recently moved back into his house, following the now-infamous incident of 2012, in which Mario's penchant for particularly hot curries had led to an attack of the Delhi Belly of such intensity that the fumes had burned down his toilet. There was much speculation at the time of it being a firework related incident, but as you know Mario appeared subsequently in GM Fire Service ads extolling the virtues of burying said items in concrete and lighting their fuses with a 6-foot taper. So of course there was no truth in those rumours. Rolling up the driveway, the only evidence one could see of any pyrotechnic activity was a line of scorched trees, which he had set alight with a flamethrower in a homage to the famous scene from Rollerball. Nothing odd there, then.
What was odd, however, was that the gonzo from Palermo's recent love affair with all-things-camouflage had now been extended from merely his car to his entire house. The place resembled nothing more than one of those checkpoints on the road from Belfast to Armagh: a huge concrete enclave, surrounded by netting and barbed wire, through which, in a single reinforced turret, Mario could be seen with his Dr Dre Beats on, gyrating to some Gangnam epic, whilst shooting a laser pen from on high into the eyes of passing motorists. As the confused drivers of Cheshire piled into each other, Mario jammed a Santa hat further onto his head and began to throw Smarties out of the window in huge, multicoloured arcs.
The doorbell was not so much of a doorbell as one of those Dukes Of Hazzard good-ol-boy sirens, much beloved of American truck drivers. At least it was loud enough to attract Mario's attention, and through a side window he could be seen sliding down the banister in his onesie, and running to the door like a 3-month old puppy.
'YO MAN, COME STA, CAZZO!' he boomed in his endearing Italo-English dialect. (Readers please note, Mario's voice is so loud that his speech can only be expressed from this point in capital letters.) Although Mario was happy to see me, it was clear that he was still somewhat irked by his spat with Mancini that day and couldn't wait to get it off his chest. "VA FANCULO MAN! THAT MISERABILI PEZZI DI MERDA MANCINI. YO, G, HE THINKS HE CAN LICK ME UP ON THE TRAINING GROUND. THAT IS ONE SICK STOLTO!!!"
At this point, our conversation was interrupted as from nowhere a Ringtailed Lemur tumbled down the stairs, holding in his monkey paw an extremely large candy cane, which he lovingly placed on Mario's lap while simultaneously jumping onto his shoulder. As he sucked upon said confectionery item and stroked the head of his Simian friend (known apparently as Bobo) Mario seemed to relax.
'THING IS, G, I LOVE BOBBY, YOU KNOW THAT. IT'S JUST THAT HE CAN BE A BIRBANTE FROM TIME TO TIME. MAN THINKS HE'S MY DAD OR SUTTIN. RINGS ME UP WHEN I'M OUT WITH MY BREDDREN AT CLOUD 21 AND TELLS ME I SHOULD BE AT HOME IN BED!!! WON'T EVEN LET ME GET A MACKIES ON THE WAY HOME, FML!!!"
Not that Mario would wish to give the impression of a stroppy teenager, but he does. As he announces he is 'OFF FOR A DUMP' I take the opportunity to look round the house. His bedroom, one might say, is a hymn to postmodern bricolage. Posters of Will Smith as The Fresh Prince adorn one bedroom wall, proudly alongside that 'tennis girl' poster from the 1970s and one of those lurid, laminated pictures of a spliff you used to find in Afflecks. The opposite wall is even more surprising: a series of cameo-sized pictures of Michael Owen, each in a gilt frame, arranged like one of those family portraiture features you might find in a Victorian museum. "MAN'S A LEDGE, YU SEH," booms Mario as he re-enters the room, having remembered to wash his hands. 'But why?" I ask. 'OBVIOUS INNIT - DIS FURBACCIONE HAS MADE AN ART FORM OUT OF DOING NOTHING AND GETTING PAID FOR IT. ANY SELF RESPECTING GANGSTA GIVES HIM MUCH LOVE, YO. EVERY DAY I WAKE UP AND WONDER IF I CAN EVER HAVE COGLIONES THE SIZE OF HIS. HE'S A HORSE, G.!!" At this point I worked out that Mario was not indeed referring to Mr Owen's equestrian interests. Mario then insisted on showing me his latest gadget - a revolving bed which plays a selection of the finest tracks by G Love and Special Sauce on a series of tiny bells as it rotates. Looking upward, I also notice Mario has had the ceiling painted after the Cistine Chapel, with Didier Drogba as Christ.
The rest of his room, I have to say is a mess. A week's worth of white sports socks are dotted around the floor like patterns on a domino - and speaking of which, a small sculpture of pizza boxes if being created in one corner. At least 3 duvets remain on the floor (form what Mario is calling a 'sleepover') and there is a mysterious fungal substance growing out of a mug on the windowsill. I was about to tut-tut my disapproval... but then I had an epiphany.
That's it! The penny dropped, and the key to this week's much publicised spat turned in its lock - to reveal the secret of Mario's relationship with senor Bobby.
It's not about Mario's attitude in training at all. It's not about his flashness, or his wacky Mediterranean antics. Not his camouflage car, camouflage house or camouflage performances. It's something much more straightforward: something every parent understands.
Bobby just wants Mario to tidy his room. He will excuse anything, forgive anything, just as long as his adopted 'son' behaves according the morals that he and his generation were brought up with - just as all of us parents of teenagers try to do. We know it doesn't work, but it doesn't stop us trying, does it??
As I pulled down the drive, passing a pink Bunny-car full of giggling 17 year old girls and a naked unicyclist delivering Thai food, I felt I had got to know Mario the man just a little better. And I had also got to know Bobby better too. Would either of them survive the axe long enough for me to make a return visit???