IT IS a question that has troubled managers for many years – how much trouble is a trouble maker worth?
This season has seen two outstanding examples in Mario Balotelli and Luis Suarez, who have been responsible for huge amounts of excitement and skill but also for creating the unwanted circus that professional sport attracts.
Balotelli’s “Why always me?” T-shirt is one of the abiding images of what has admittedly been a fairly lacklustre season on the pitch, and he has proven to be a one-man publicity machine – although it is still unclear what he’s been publicising, other than the dangers of giving immature men a sense of importance and far too much money.
At the same time Suarez has enthralled and annoyed in equal measure – and it’s a divide that is not as simplistic as having Liverpool fans in one camp and everyone else in the other.
It now seems likely that Balotelli will leave Manchester City and I’m not sure anyone would be too surprised if Suarez departed Anfield in the summer if the right offer materialises.
Such players are often described as one-offs which overlooks the rather obvious point that football is a team game.
And that helps provide the answer to the question of how much trouble they are worth. As long as they make the team better, then mistakes and mistimed tackles can be forgiven, but the moment they begin to have a detrimental effect on the team is when they are inevitably shown the door.