A player whose career trajectory has been a volatile one to say the least – even by the rollercoaster standards of Craig Bellamy – 2010 has so far been an incident packed year he would rather forget. That he was the scorer of two wonderful goals in a pulsating early season Manchester derby little under a year ago – the highlight of an exhilarating start to the 2009/10 season which saw Bellamy play some of the best football of his career – slips the mind all too easily in light of all that has passed.
One suspects that Bellamy’s time at Eastlands is approaching its denouement. Roberto Mancini gave the clearest indication yet that Bellamy would be wearing the colours of another club come September 1 by banning Bellamy from Manchester City’s training ground. The decision came following a frank and thorough interview given by Bellamy to the Press as the fiery forward outlined his disillusionment with his situation at City. In that interview, Bellamy claimed to feel ostracised from the Manchester City squad – an inclination which was compounded by being forced to train with the reserves on the Friday before the season opener against Tottenham. That initial decision was a statement of intent. A marginal figure at best during pre-season, Bellamy must beforehand have hoped (if not expected) to earn a place in City’s 25-man squad for the 2010/11 season. Being forced to train with the reserves eradicated all hope.
Throughout the interview Bellamy was at pains to elucidate the extent to which he felt all hope of a successful future at Manchester City had been drained from him. Whatever anybody’s opinion of Bellamy as a man, and there have been plenty of controversial incidents throughout his career which have influenced the public’s perception of him, Bellamy speaks forthrightly and articulately. When he says he is considering retirement, one takes such claims seriously. “I might finish, full stop, or look at every option I get,” he said. “I feel strongly that I can offer something at this club. But if I don’t get in the 25-man squad, I don’t know what I will do.”
Whilst Bellamy’s comments were impassioned, they also exacerbated his already fractious relationship with Mancini. Perhaps there was a lack of tact, or a fatalistic acceptance that his time at Manchester City was at an end, in his comments about Mancini. “He [Mancini] hasn’t spoken to me since February. I don’t know if it’s personal – he’s like that with a lot of his players,” he said. Succinct and forthright, Bellamy admitted that his relationship with Mancini had been non-existent from the very start. The relationship between the two cannot have been helped by the Italian’s decision to drop Bellamy, hitherto City’s Player of the Season during the first half of 2009/10, from the starting line-up in favour of new signing Adam Johnson. With David Silva’s recruitment during the summer and the consistent lack of communication, the writing has long since been on the wall.
Bellamy spent Monday training with Cardiff City having been given permission by Manchester City. By seeking to train with the Welsh sleeping giants so quickly after being excluded from the City set-up, Bellamy has ignited rumours of linking up with the Championship side on a six-month loan. The potential transfer would be one of the most eye-catching of the summer, especially considering Bellamy, at 31-years-old, is still in the prime of his career. As he alluded to in the now infamous interview, under Mark Hughes he was playing some of the best football of his career at Eastlands. It is no surprise that Premier League clubs too are clamouring for Bellamy’s signature. Hughes is not the only manager to state his admiration for the outspoken forward. Harry Redknapp is a keen admirer but Manchester City are explicitly reluctant to deal with a direct rival for Champions League football. The Media are also touting Everton as a potential destination, and covetous glances in his direction have been made from Europe. Despite being impressed by Steve McClaren’s work at Wolfsburg, family commitments meant that Bellamy was averse to moving to the Bundesliga at this stage in his career.
As one controversial talent exits, another arrives. James Dielhenn’s article on Mario Balotelli depicts a man whose stint at Inter Milan contains enough controversy to fill several careers. In spite of his considerable power, acceleration and callousness in front of goal, his £24m fee has raised questions. Why pay £24m for a player whose appetite for destruction dwarfs that of Bellamy’s, a player with infinitely more experience of Premier League football than he? The following ten months will reveal whether Mancini’s treatment of Bellamy is justified.