Exclusive: Balotelli loses cover shoot to model pro Parker
Published 22:25 03/03/12 By Simon Mullock
Mad-cap Mario Balotelli has rejected the chance to be a cover boy for lads’ mag FHM – and has been replaced by new England captain Scott Parker.
The Manchester City striker was asked to do a fashion shoot for the monthly magazine after capturing the imagination of the British public with his crazy antics on and off the pitch.
Balotelli had a change of heart after initially turning down the offer, but City’s busy schedule in both the Premier League and Europa League meant he was unable to finalise a date to become a model for the day.
After missing out on bad-boy Balotelli, FHM turned to Spurs’ fresh-faced midfielder Parker.
So FHM bosses were delighted that, after missing out on their No.1 choice, Parker was named Three Lions skipper by stand-in boss Stuart Pearce for last week’s friendly with Holland at Wembley.
Parker is suspended for today’s clash with Manchester United at White Hart Lane after being sent off in last week’s derby defeat at Arsenal.
Balotelli himself has just served a four-match ban after the FA ruled that he deliberately stamped on Parker’s head during City’s 3-2 victory over Spurs last month.
The Italian scored City’s winner that day, with a last-minute penalty he earned himself, but was hit by a retrospective charge of violent conduct when referee Howard Webb admitted he should have sent Balotelli off.
The contrast between Balotelli and Parker could not be more stark.
The City striker constantly goes from the sublime to the ridiculous, smashing up high-powered cars one minute and then handing cash to homeless people the next.
He returned from his latest suspension against Blackburn last week and celebrated scoring City’s opening goal in a 4-0 win by revealing a T-shirt proclaiming his love for girlfriend Raffaella Fico.
But he was then axed from Italy’s squad to face the United States – and warned by coach Cesare Prandelli that he will miss Euro 2012 unless he cleans up his behaviour.
City boss Roberto Mancini staked his reputation on Balotelli developing into one of the world’s best players when he paid Inter Milan £24million for a player Jose Mourinho described as “unmanageable”.
Parker, 31, was named Footballer of the Year last season, despite captaining a West Ham side that was relegated from the Premier League. He is a model pro who has thrived since moving to White Hart Lane in the summer and is being touted as a possible permanent England captain.
But Balotelli, 22, is quickly developing into one of the game’s iconic figures. He recently came second to rap star Tinie Tempah in a poll by GQ magazine to find the UK’s best-dressed man. Musician Tinchy Stryder has even penned a song about the Italian’s talent for controversy.
A City insider said: “Interest in Mario has exploded over the last year. We get requests from magazines and TV stations all over the world asking for interviews.
“Mario doesn’t understand that the commercial opportunities opening up for him are huge. He wasn’t interested in doing the FHM shoot at first, but had a change of mind. He was disappointed it didn’t work out. He regards himself as a footballer who does all the normal things lads his age do – that’s why young people identify with him.”