HE BORROWED A TEAM-MATE’S BENTLEY AND IT WAS STOLEN
HE CYCLED INTO A GOLF CART
HE CALLED HIMSELF A CHAMPIONS LEAGUE WINNER BUT NEVER PLAYED IN THE FINAL
HE WAS INJURED PLAYING WITH HIS DOG
…AND WAS INVOLVED IN A NIGHT CLUB PUNCH-UP DEFENDING HIS BROTHER
OH, AND HE’S GOOD FRIENDS WITH BALOTELLI
By CHRISTOPHER DAVIES
AS MARKO Arnautović used Mario Balotelli as his role model at Inter Milan perhaps it is not surprising that the Austria striker has consistently made the headlines for the wrong reasons.
But some of the things Arnautović has done make Mad Mario seem a pussy cat and in the view of José Mourinho, the even Madder Marko “thinks and acts like a kid.”
Arnautović is set to play against the Repuiblic of Ireland in the 2014 World Cup qualifier in Dublin on Tuesday and one way or the other Irish fans can expect fireworks from the striker who looked up to Balotelli, the player called “unmanageable” by Mourinho, as a guiding light.
The Austrian was loaned to Inter from FC Twente during their Treble-winning season of 2009/10, but the only treble Arnautović managed was the three games he played before being sent back to Holland.
Arnautović said: “The problems with Mourinho started when I went out five times a week despite being injured. I tried to distract myself, but I did it the wrong way.”
The 23-year-old has made a habit of doing things the wrong way. He once cycled into a golf cart and said: “My team-mates asked me why I can’t cycle. I lived in the Netherlands for three years and everyone rides a bike there. Accidents simply happen.”
They do to Mad Marko who is an accident waiting to happen and rarely disappoints.
He once “borrowed” the Bentley that belonged to Inter team-mate Samuel Eto’o and took it for a ride around Milan. Arnautović claimed he had planned to buy the vehicle from the Cameroon international. “I drove it for two weeks to check whether I liked it. I was at a restaurant with friends when it was stolen. This incident affected me so badly I was unable to train. Thank God the car resurfaced in the meantime.”
Yet it all started so well for Arnautović when he made his debut for FC Twente in April 2007, five days before his 18th birthday. Under former England manager Steve McClaren the teenager became a first-team regular, scoring 14 goals plus seven assists in 2008/09. At 6ft 3ins he had the strength to go with his skill and Europe’s big guns soon became aware of the Vienna-born player who had a Serbian father.
He was due to sign a permanent contract with Inter in the summer of 2009, but a foot injury saw the move made a loan deal. The Italians later thanked their lucky stars.
Arnautović had a carefree approach to life, so it was no surprise when he bonded with Balotelli another player who tended to act first and think later. Mourinho said: “Mario Balotelli is his [Arnautović] best friend, coincidentally they have the same problems. Marko is a great guy, but he has the mentality of a child.”
He was to make only three appearances for Inter before Werder Bremen paid FC Twente €7.5 million for Arnautović who didn’t take long to upset his new club. Arriving in Bremen his team-mates were amazed to see he had “Champions League winner 2010” printed on his football boots even though he was not in the Inter squad when they defeated Bayern Munich 2-0.
From being, in his mind, a European Champion, Arnautović soon found himself in a relegation dogfight while off the pitch he was involved in some fisticuffs in a night-club. He claimed to be an innocent party, going to the defence of his brother, who had allegedly been attacked by Werder fans. “There were some young men who attacked my brother without provocation,” said Arnautović. “I then came in between them. I had to do that and then I suffered a blow.”
Calling Werder Bremen “a dump” in front of a TV camera did not help Arnautović as he struggled for form. Neither did an interview in which he said that not only did he like tattoos, he required them, together with silicone-inflated breasts, in his dream woman.
His form improved, but he was sidelined when he tore knee ligaments, not the result of a crunching tackle. Arnautović was playing with his dog. The Austrian can’t even be sent-off in straightforward circumstances. During a game against Hamburg he was cautioned for a body-check on Heiko Westermann. Referee Thorsten Kinhofer showed the yellow card and Arnautović’s reaction was to threaten to kick the ball against the official’s head. A second yellow and a red card quickly followed.
His poor form and bad behaviour saw him dropped by Austria for 18 months, but Arnautović is back with the national team after the birth of his daughter gave him an added responsibility. “I must keep myself under control,” he said. “I have a big responsibility as a father and that helps me to become more sensible. It’s better that I keep my mouth shut and let my feet do the talking.”
It’s a pity Arnautović isn’t Irish. It would be fascinating to see how Giovanni Trapattoni handled him.