It is 11 January 2015 and the ingenuity of Francesco Totti is being widely lauded, after celebrating a late equaliser in the Derby della Capitale by taking a selfie in front of the Roma faithful mid-game.
Fast forward just over four years, though, and Mario Balotelli’s in-match Instagram post after scoring for Marseille against St. Etienne received a somewhat mixed reaction from the world of football.
Those quick to criticise the colourful frontman suggested that Balotelli’s actions lacked respect for the game and deliberated whether a yellow card should have been brandished – joyless UEFA executives no doubt considering rule changes as I type.
However, you get the feeling that had it been any other footballer than the 28-year-old Italian, only barely-audible mutterings of a bygone era would have been uttered and little was made of the ex-Manchester City man’s intelligence to understand the reach and significance of the act.
With over eight million followers on Instagram, in just one day the post was shared or liked 200,000 times an hour. What club or sponsor, which teams constantly looking to increase revenue streams through, would not appreciate that level of exposure?
Balotelli’s only crime to warrant such negative opinions, particularly within his homeland, though, was a boldness to enjoy the fruits of what his undoubted talents had given him when breaking through as a youngster and to seemingly have a fun time as a result
However, there are also those that still do not accept the former Inter youth as ‘Italian’, given that, despite being born in Palermo, Sicily, both biological parents hail from Ghana and he was considered an immigrant by law until mid-2008.
That is probably being kind to those unaccepting individuals, as the Balotelli ancestry gives detractors a geographical and not racial excuse to attack any indiscretions – of which there were many during the start of his career.
Therefore, it is hardly surprising that the most productive periods of his career have arguably coincided with spells outside of the peninsula with Manchester City, Nice and now Olympique Marseille.
Unfortunately for the ex-AC Milan man, though, at the first sign of a downturn in performances, even foreign media and supporters start to roll out the same tired old stereotypes as to why he may not be fulfilling his potential.
The working environment he has found on the south of France can certainly benefit the Italian national side’s challenge for Euro 2020 next summer, but hopefully, eventually bring a return to Serie A.
There are plenty of clubs in the top-flight that could do with the talent and increased exposure Balotelli would provide, not to forget Serie A itself. Whether Italian fans and media are ready to judge him without bias, though, could remain the crucial ingredient to his selfies returning to their shores.