Having hugged his adoptive mother Silvia at the final whistle of that awesome semi-final victory, having so wonderfully scored the goals to beat Germany, Mario Balotelli last night did what he said he sometimes does: he went from Super Mario to Stupid Mario.
He showed his two faces. He looked a very, very young 21 year-old at the final whistle when he immediately stormed off down the tunnel although no one could have doubted his commitment until things conspired against Italy, two down and down to 10 men after a cruel injury to their third substitute, and being toyed with by the champions Spain who stroked in two more goals.
It was hard to take and Balotelli can be forgiven for that and, eventually, there were tears of his own last night to go along with those already shed by his older team-mates, such as Andrea Pirlo, who had not barged their way off.
He can be forgiven for it, of course, because of his age, to an extent, but also because he had a wonderful tournament in what was a wonderful narrative for the Italians before they faced probably the greatest national team to play the game with their legs feeling like they were filled with lead.
Rather than a star being born at this tournament, one still remains in the wings – to an extent – a Peter Pan (as Balotelli described himself) waiting to be fully airborne. In what became a finals dominated by stats and debate over their worth, there was an apparently telling one last night. According to Opta, Balotelli did not touch the ball inside the Spanish penalty area though to the naked eye, he appeared to carry a greater threat than that damning note.
His behaviour at the end was undoubtedly petulant, unsavoury, especially when he pushed aside an Italian official who tried to stop him leaving. As he was implored to stay and acknowledge the supporters, he muttered under his breath but finally did emerge to rejoin his team-mates, swigging a bottle of water with a swagger that looked out of place.
Even as Balotelli was the last Italian player up to collect his loser’s medal he appeared almost vacant. But then there were those tears and he did look what he was - a young man struggling to deal with disappointment but also one whose actions, after a limited performance, had shown how ridiculous it was for his opportunistic agent, Mino Raiola, to have declared that his client was now worth £200 million. Knock a nought off that figure.
Balotelli’s actions were coming. He had held himself in check - largely - during the match although that fourth Spanish goal tipped him over the edge. As they celebrated, Balotelli was on his haunches on the halfway line, not moving for what seemed an eternity until the game eventually restarted. It was his simple inability to process it all. Maybe also a sign that too much had been expected of him.