The raw ability is there and he has certainly acquired a knack for kung-fu kicks, but it is not enough. Balotelli lacks the one quality that makes any comparison redundant. He does not have Cantona's intelligence.
Stamped out: Mario Balotelli's reckless challenge KO'd City's European dreams
Balotelli's supporters say he will grow out of his maverick streak one day, just like Manchester United's iconic Frenchman. But if he cannot summon the wit to pull on a training bib (I urge you to watch the footage on YouTube below if you have not seen it yet), it is fair to assume Balotelli might not be astute enough to make the most of his natural gifts.
Don't take my word for it. Ask the people who have worked with him; people like Jose Mourinho.
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If I had to pick a manager to weigh up the good and bad in a footballer and assess whether their talent compensated for any character failings, Mourinho would be that man.
The Real Madrid coach - formerly at Porto, Chelsea and Inter Milan - cultivates great loyalty from his playing staff because he knows when to put an arm of encouragement around a shoulder and when to apply a boot to a pampered backside. His gift for man management is renowned.
But back when he was in charge at Inter, even Mourinho could not cope with Balotelli's tantrums and contemptuous breaches of professionalism.
??More from Des Kelly...?DES KELLY: One-eyed men, Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger, are blind to reality11/03/11?Des Kelly: Lunatics really have taken over the game - they must be stopped04/03/11?Des Kelly: Forget art, it's time for silver at Arsenal after all this time25/02/11?Des Kelly: This pair of greedy rats are shamed by Wembley ticket hike18/02/11?Des Kelly: We simply can't turn our backs on Newcastle's Barton11/02/11?Des Kelly: Aldridge shoots from the lip (but he's way off target this time)04/02/11?Des Kelly: Did Keys and Gray exits smash sexism? Do me a favour28/01/11?Des Kelly: Loyalty? Bruce has jumped ship even more than Jack Sparrow21/01/11?VIEW FULL ARCHIVE? It took six months for him to suspendthe player. Eight months later, after endless disputes, missed flights,late arrivals at training camp and even an episode where he wore the shirt of rivals AC Milan on national TV, Balotelli threw his Inter jersey down at Mourinho's feet when he was substituted.
The coach took City's handsome chequeand guided a player he described as 'unmanageable' through the exit door, adding a typically pithy postscript that seems to resonate more and more with each passing week.
'Balotelli has one brain cell,' he said.
Manchester City found out what happens when that solitary, overworked neuron goes on strike when he put his studs into a Dynamo Kiev player, stamping the life out of his club's European campaign.
As if that were not foolish enough, he was pictured apparently confronting visiting fans in the middle of the road on his way home.
Stupid doesn't even cover it, and any apology cobbled together by agents and PRs on the club website cannot make amends.
Gianfranco Zola, another who has coached Balotelli with the Italian Under 21 squad, says: 'Everything is in place except self-discipline. Mario does not have self-control.'
Even Roberto Mancini - his manager at City, who introduced Balotelli to the Inter side at 17 and knows him like no other - branded his actions 'stupid' and said he will drop his ?23million striker for the vital game at Chelsea on Sunday.
Funny that. Roll back 12 months and Mourinho was dumping Balotelli from his Inter side facing Chelsea in Champions League for his 'terrible attitude'. Nothing changes.
But it was all supposed to be better in England, away from the history of conflict in Milan and the undercurrent of racist abuse he suffered from a section of the fans.
Watch Balotelli's battle with the bib
Managers always think they can change a player. The excuse is that their excesses need to be indulged because there is a fine line between genius and madness.
If so, someone better tell Lionel Messi he needs to smash up a hotel room or two before the cliche becomes completely worthless.
At least Cantona grew to understand that he had to change. It took the threat of jail and an eight-month ban for it to happen, but he always had something more to offer on and off the pitch.
Is there much to Balotelli beyond an instinctive talent burdened with a huge chip on his shoulder?
On Friday at Eastlands they will have rewound the footage of his idiotic lunge and asked the all-important question: Is he really worth it? Is Balotelli the sort of player a club with unlimited resources and unlimited ambition should be trusting?
Or has his upbringing, the fact his parents put him up for adoption at the age of one, and the way everyone has told him how great he is throughout his formative years as a player, conspired to create a character who is irredeemably damaged goods?
Right now, he looks a loan deal waiting to happen. He looks like a player searching for something; only he has no idea what that might be.
Balotelli looks like a player who will never feel at home the way Cantona did at Old Trafford.
?Best wishes to Bryan Robson as he fights throat cancer. Now there was an England captain to be proud of.
?It may be small consolation to them right now, but the winners of an epic Champions League draw could well be two teams that were not in the pot - Arsenal and Manchester City.
While Chelsea and Manchester United prepare to trade blows in their heavyweight quarter-final and Tottenham prepare for the dazzling contest against Real Madrid, those domestic battles will be even more of a strain and the bystanders can take advantage.
Late surge? Arsenal may benefit from the Champions League quarter-final between Chelsea and Manchester United.
Arsenal have nothing left to aim for but a title. While City must now fancy their chances of sealing that top-four place ahead of Spurs in the scramble for Champions League qualification. I'm predicting nothing other than I can't wait to see it all unfold.
?England have waited eight years to taste victory in Dublin. They have a stronger pack, more explosive backs and a touch more flair than an Irish side that is in the midst of a rebuilding process.
So although Ireland may have won six of the last seven meetings, the form book says Martin Johnson's men should win relatively comfortably.
But if legendary centre Brian O'Driscoll starts to give 6ft 7in, 18 stone England debutant Matt Banahan the runaround, then you can throw that form book out the window.
?Even allowing for the air of backslapping bonhomie of a Cheltenham week, I found myself begrudging the sight of a horse owned by Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary's passing the winning post in first place.
How much more satisfying it would have been if the Irish chief executive had been treated in the same, mean-spirited manner as his airline passengers? So I offer a few ideas for some O'Leary 'economy measures' next year:
Victory sign: Michael O'Leary
His horsebox arrives at 'Cheltenham', only to find this is a field near Manchester, a two-hour bus ride away. O'Leary is charged €40 for not printing out his racecard at home. He is hit with a €10 'handling fee' merely for buying an entrance ticket. n Ordered to pay a €40 luggage penalty for putting a saddle on the horse's back. And charged another €40 because the XXXL hat on his considerable head fails to fit in the onboard storage compartment and is classed as extra hand luggage. After all this, his horse is then held on a queue for no apparent reason and disqualified for failing to arrive at the starting gate in time - with no refunds on offer. See how he likes it.
?A statue of Jacko? You can't beat it for madnessThey have a statue of Bill Shankly at Anfield; Sir Matt Busby is on guard outside Old Trafford; Billy Bremner's arms are forever raised in triumph at Elland Road and Johnny Haynes proudly keeps watch at Fulham. But Haynes is about to have some peculiar company on a nearby pedestal at Craven Cottage.
Fulham owner Mohamed Al Fayed plans to erect a statue of Michael Jackson, which is certainly a brave call for a club that goes by the nickname 'The Cottagers'.
Apparently, the reasoning behind this is that Wacko Jacko went to the ground once a dozen years ago and walked across the pitch in the sunshine with an umbrella above his head, which made a pleasant change from holding his child 'Blanket' above his head on some hotel balcony.
Thriller: Mohamed Al Fayed welcomes Michael Jackson to Fulham in 1999
This statue was earmarked for Harrods, but when Al Fayed sold the shop he needed another location for his leftover piece. The back garden would have been the best place to start.
But I have some questions on this strange development: Will the Jackson statue be made of plastic just like the real thing? Will it start off black and then turn white over time, just like the real thing? Will children be allowed to touch the Jackson statue, just like the, er OK, maybe not.
We will find out the answers on April 3, when it is due to be unveiled, although Al Fayed might consider bringing the ceremony forward 48 hours to a more suitable date.
Should you believe any of this is in bad taste, I ask you to remember a statue of a pop star with a history of extremely questionable behaviour is being put up outside a famous old football club. How could I top that for bad taste?
?PRINT-OUT AND KEEP ENGLAND CAPTAINCY STORY FOR EVERY OCCASION: England boss Fabio Capello last night selected / sacked / reinstated John Terry as captain of the national team.
The Italian coach insisted it would be a temporary / permanent / completely random appointment. Terry has been selected because he is an influential leader / an embarrassing disgrace / had slept with all his team-mates' partners by now so could no longer affect morale.
Former skipper Rio Ferdinand was said to be humiliated / untroubled / having another MRI scan when he heard the news.
An England source said: 'it shows what strength in depth we have / how desperate we are / that Capello has completely lost the plot.'
Terry promises he won't let Capello down / is sure to let Capello down / is probably going to be injured anyway.
?Explore more:People: Brian O'Driscoll, Matt Banahan, John Terry, Johnny Haynes, Fabio Capello, Martin Johnson, Jose Mourinho, Mario Balotelli, Lionel Messi, Matt Busby, Gianfranco Zola, Bryan Robson, Mohamed Al Fayed, Rio Ferdinand, Roberto Mancini, Michael Jackson, Bill Shankly Places: Manchester, Dublin, Ireland, United Kingdom
Source: Daily Mail
Source: Daily Mail