LONDON – Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli faces a four-match ban after being charged by the English Football Association on Monday with violent conduct for appearing to stomp on an opponent’s head.
The Italian international trampled on the right ear of Tottenham midfielder Scott Parker during a Premier League match Sunday.
Referee Howard Webb told the FA that he would have sent Balotelli off if he had seen what looks to be the most serious moment yet in the player’s 18-month stint at City following several colorful incidents on and the field.
Balotelli went on to earn a penalty kick and score from the spot to clinch a 3-2 win for league leader City over its title rival, angering Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp.
“What reason did he have to back-heel Scott in the head with his studs when he is laying on the floor?” Redknapp asked. “I couldn’t see a reason for it.”
“It is not the first time he has done that,” he added. “And I am sure it won’t be the last.”
Parker ended up on the ground after getting tangled up with teammate Luka Modric while trying to block a strike from Balotelli. Slow motion replays showed Balotelli first catching Parker’s hands with his left boot and then following through with the studs of his right boot, which landed on the midfielder’s head.
Because Balotelli has already been sent off once this season, he will be banned for four matches instead of the usual three if found guilty. Balotelli has until Wednesday evening to respond to the charge.
The 21-year-old forward has rarely been out of the headlines since joining from Inter Milan before the 2010-11 season.
He made light of his troubles in October by unveiling a T-shirt with the question: “Why Always Me?” during City’s 6-1 rout of Manchester United. That came after it emerged a fire had broken out in his house when fireworks were let off in his bathroom.
Balotelli’s first league goals for City in November 2010 were marred by a red card after clashing with West Bromwich Albion’s Youssuf Mulumbu.
Balotelli again hit trouble in March 2011 after it emerged he threw a dart at a City youth-team player. No one was hurt in the incident and he escaped punishment.
Even the following off-season tour of the United States led to Balotelli enraging manager Roberto Mancini. Playing in a friendly against Los Angeles Galaxy, he was through on goal only to attempt an audacious backheel shot — and put it wide. Mancini immediately substituted Balotelli and the pair exchanged angry words.
His second season in English football began in August with former United captain Gary Neville branding some of Balotelli’s conduct as an “embarrassment to his club.”
Balotelli had squared up to United defender Nemanja Vidic before being substituted in the Community Shield loss and racing straight down the Wembley Stadium tunnel.
Now City’s hopes of returning to Wembley next month for the League Cup final have been endangered by Balotelli’s actions on Sunday against Tottenham.
If he accepts his charge, Balotelli will miss the second leg of the semifinal against Liverpool at Anfield on Wednesday in which City must overturn a 1-0 deficit.