Mario Balotelli's remarkable capacity for self-inflicted problems resurfaced on the eve of the Manchester derby when he had to escape from his burning house after a fire caused by letting off fireworks in the bathroom in the early hours of Saturday morning.
Balotelli escaped unhurt but will be summoned to see Roberto Mancini to explain the latest moment of madness in his chequered career. City have been contacted by the fire service and Mancini will want to know what Balotelli was doing putting himself in such a position before their biggest match of the season.
Two fire crews using breathing apparatus put out the flames after being called to Balotelli's house just before 1am on Saturday to deal with what has been described as "a substantial fire" on the first floor. The property, in Mottram St Andrew, Cheshire, sustained serious fire and smoke damage and the police were also called – in part to ensure Balotelli did not go back into the house. The striker is said to have been reluctant to leave his belongings and, at one point, to have run back inside to recover a quantity of money and a suitcase.
Balotelli checked into a Manchester hotel and took part in training as normal at 10am. He has told club officials he and four friends were setting off fireworks through an open window. The bathroom towels set fire and the blaze quickly spread. Balotelli has claimed that one of his friends had set off the firework. That, however, is unlikely to spare him a reprimand from Mancini and a reminder that City's management staff would have expected him to be asleep at that time rather than endangering himself to the possibility of serious injury.
A statement from the fire service said: "Four breathing apparatus and two hose reel water jets were used to deal with the fire and a large fan was used to clear the smoke from the property. Crews managed to put the fire out within half an hour of arriving but remained at the scene until 2.45 am to prevent any possible flare-ups. Smoke alarms were fitted at the property and the occupiers were able to get out unharmed. The fire was caused by a firework."
The incident comes at a bad time for Balotelli after Mancini's recent statements about noticing a "big improvement" in the player's behaviour. Balotelli has scored in his last four games and a major part of City's pre-derby training has been set up around him getting behind United's defence.
Mancini said on Friday that he hoped Balotelli was "changing his mentality" and putting behind him the controversies that have accompanied since he signed from Internazionale for £25m last year.
Balotelli has established himself as one of the more controversial figures in English football, his list of misdemeanours including an internal investigation after he was seen throwing darts at youth-team players.
Balotelli was substituted in the first half of a pre-season match in Los Angeles after he was given a simple chance to score and tried to back-heel the ball into net, missing the target entirely. Yet he insisted in an interview in the past few days that he was growing up and would steer clear of controversy before, during and after the derby.
He has recently moved from Manchester city centre and said he was living in the countryside for a quieter life.
Lol Balotelli is the gift that just keeps on giving ...