Mario Balotelli’s top moments of madness; the final Manchester City incident report

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Thank goodness for a little morning spelunking into the research files on Mario Balotelli and the bizarre forces that have always ruled his head. Because I had completely forgotten about the women’s prison incident!

For pure entertainment, how awesome was this guy?

On the serious side briefly: Manchester City officials finally saw the light, belated as it was.

Balotelli was always going to be a problem and a burden. Not to put too fine a point on it, but the man-child of Manchester was always going to be a brooding figure in the City locker room, a taught trip wire ready to create destruction on the training ground or, worse yet, in a big match. Talented as the young Italian striker surely is, the club was always going to be better without him.

At the very least, City will be a more focused bunch without Balotelli’s selfish inclinations to overcome. Reports have the Italian giant paying about $31.5 million to bring Balotelli to the San Siro, where he will sign a 4 ½ -year deal pending a medical sign-off.

ProSoccerTalk’s Richard Farley smartly assessed the ins and out here.  But (running back toward the light a little) it is worth a few minutes to look back at exactly why City is a better, more stable place today.

One story I read says Balotelli’s move to AC Milan ends a “turbulent” two and a half years at the Etihad. That’s a little like saying debate between democrats and republicans sometimes gets a “little snippy.”

This piece has a few humorous details on the women’s prison bit. Classic.

This rap sheet of wackiness from the Mirror – in fairness, the Mirror’s standard of truth goes about as high as single Thin Mint cookie, but still … – likes the unconfirmed report that his mom once dispatched Balotelli to pick up some cleaning supplies.

A few hours later, Mario’s car pulled up with a van behind – which promptly unloaded a giant trampoline, two Vespa scooters and no cleaning products whatsoever…”

She raised the kid; she’s presumably seen worse. Quite possibly on a weekly basis.

Those are the incidents that lean toward the wacky, but there were other moments where a truly darker element emerged, like his awful, potentially devastating tackle on Alex Song last spring.

The really crazy thing is this: the lists above were cobbled together at some point last year. Of Because Balotelli is nothing if not reliable, there have been additions since then, like the training ground scuffle with Mancini earlier this month.

The other crazy thing: these lists don’t share as many incidents as you might think. You see, when it comes to Mario Balotelli Moments of Madness, there’s a menu of choices that would make the freakin’ Cheesecake Factory blush.

Bravo fit again, but will he start Chile’s Confed Cup group finale?

Photo credit should read YURI KADOBNOV/AFP/Getty Images
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MOSCOW (AP) Claudio Bravo is fit again and could start in goal against Australia at the Confederations Cup on Sunday, Chile coach Juan Antonio Pizzi said Saturday.

Bravo – who is Chile’s joint most-capped player with Alexis Sanchez – hasn’t played since April 27, when he injured his calf for Manchester City in a derby game with Manchester United.

“Claudio is fit, he’s managed to train the last couple of days just like his other teammates,” Pizzi said. “He’s ready and available to play.”

Pizzi brushed off concerns about a lack of match fitness, saying that “quite obviously we take into account that factor” but players like Bravo are “are of such good quality that it isn’t that important they haven’t played in the last couple of months.”

Stand-in Johnny Herrera played in Chile’s 2-0 group stage win over Cameroon and Thursday’s 1-1 draw with Germany.

Gary Medel was substituted with a minor injury while playing in defense for Chile against Germany. Teammate Francisco Silva said Saturday that Medel had complained of “a very small muscle contraction issue” but was now fit.

Pizzi said he will aim to tire out Australia with Chile’s trademark all-action style, even though his team struggled for energy in the latter stages against Germany.

“This energy drop we had in the second half didn’t damage us too much because the opposing team couldn’t maintain a high pace because of the demands we’d imposed on them,” Pizzi said of the Germany game.

“We’re going to try to get (the Australians) tired as well and use this to beat our opponent, and we hope this is going to translate into goals.”

USMNT’s Wood extends Hamburg contract through 2021

Photo credit: Hamburg / Twitter: @HSV
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HAMBURG, Germany (AP) American forward Bobby Wood extended his contract with Bundesliga side Hamburger SV on Saturday to 2021.

Wood, who joined Hamburg from second-tier Union Berlin, scored five goals and set up two more in 28 Bundesliga games. He had 17 goals in 31 second-division games for Union the season before.

“Not only his goals count for us, but his readiness to run and challenge,” Hamburg sporting director Jens Todt said. “Bobby is a key player for our offense and a real team player.”

Wood has eight goals in 32 appearances for the United States.

MLS Snapshot: NYCFC run rampant on Red Bulls, win 2-0

Photo credit: NYCFC
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The game in 100 words (or less): The only thing standing in the way of New York City FC avenging their infamous 7-0 loss to the New York Red Bulls with a lopsided demolition job of their own, on Saturday, was an otherworldly goalkeeping performance from Luis Robles. It was the Red Bulls shot-stopper, with his four saves on the afternoon (three of them coming in spectacular fashion), who kept Jesse Marsch’s side within touching distance for more than an hour. Jack Harrison was denied early on by Robles, but got the better of him not long later for the game’s opening goal. Heroics from Robles kept the score at 1-0 for another 32 minutes, before Ben Sweat’s (accidental?) header made it 2-0 in the 65th minute. The Red Bulls, on the other hand, managed their first shot on target in the 80th minute. That’s three wins in a row for NYCFC, who go seven points clear of their Hudson River rivals and keep Toronto FC in sight at the top of the league table, five points ahead.

[ MORE: Transfer rumor roundup ]

Three moments that mattered

18′ — Robles goes full-stretch to deny Harrison — David Villa’s vision and Rodney Wallace‘s hold-play created the chance for Harrison, but Luis Robles’ acrobatics denied the 20-year-old Englishman in spectacular fashion.

33′ — Harrison not to be denied this time — Sweat delivered the ball to Harrison near the top of the box, and the second-year man did everything right with what’s a really, really difficult chance to take — facing away from goal, first-time, ball traveling across the goalkeeper, upper-90 to the far post.

65′ — Sweat loops a header past Robles for 2-0 — Sweat probably didn’t mean it, but the ball hit the back of the net, and that’s all that matters. Not a bad time to score your first MLS goal, either.

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Man of the match: Luis Robles

Goalscorers: Harrison (33′), Sweat (65′)

Watford signs Will Hughes from Derby County

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Watford has completed the capture of 22-year-old central midfielder Will Hughes, a fantastic transfer for one of England’s younger talents.

Hughes, despite his young age, racked up 189 appearances for Derby County (despite missing significant time in 2015 for an ACL tear) and now gets his first shot at the Premier League, and with it potentially a chance to push his way into the England fold. Hughes has been a staple for the England youth system, making 22 appearances for the country’s U-21 side but is yet to feature for the senior team.

The fee for the transfer was undisclosed but reports have tabbed the amount at around $10 million.

Hughes came close to making the Premier League with Derby County on multiple occasions, reaching the Championship playoffs in both 2014 and 2016. Now, he’ll battle the likes of Valon Behrami, Tom Cleverley, Etienne Capoue, Abdoulaye Doucoure for a spot in Watford’s midfield.

The club release confirmed that Hughes has not yet completed his medical, and will do so when he returns to the U.K. from competing in the U-21 European Championships in Poland.