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Did Berlusconi Buy Balotelli to Help His Election Bid?

I spoke to someone from an Italian political think tank to find out.

by James Baines
07 February 2013, 11:33am

Photo by Alessio

Since making his mark on English football and Scott Parker's face, Mario Balotelli – the Italian man child who's been called crazy for living exactly how you'd expect a famous 22-year-old who makes £20,000 a day to live – has walked straight into a whole new cloud of controversy since moving home to join AC Milian. He's been called "the family nigger" by the club's VP and Silvio's brother, Paolo Berlusconi Jr; accused of being a political play-thing, there to help Silvio's bid for re-election and, most shockingly, has scored twice.

Those political allegations may seem odd, but then Silvio Berlusconi – AC Milan's chairman – is odd. And trying to buy up political popularity with Milan fans by virtue of the transfer window definitely seems like a projectile he'd be capable of firing out of his propaganda cannon. After all, it does seem a little peculiar for the man who called Balotelli "a rotten apple" to sign him just a month later. Not being Italian, political or racist, I decided to reach out to Gianfilippo Emma at independent Italian think tank, Vision, in order to develop a clearer picture of the Balotelli effect.

VICE: Hi Gianfilippo. So, Super Mario has arrived in Milan to save Berlusconi’s bid for election?
Gianfilippo Emma: That's a very interesting question. A lot of journalists have written about this recently. If we look at the polls, there is an impact on voters related to Balotelli. The amount of new votes for Berlusconi changes by different polls – between 40,000 and 400,000 – but the main impact will be in Lombardia, the region that Milan is in, where voters are going to be choosing their representatives for the regional assembly at the end of this month.  

Why Lombardia in particular?
Well, the two main coalitions there are very close in terms of probably votes. Balotelli's arrival may bring Berlusconi from 5,000 to 50,000 new voters in Lombardia, which could mean winning the regional election. But, more importantly, if we consider the "election law" called "Porcellum" (based on regional results), if the coalition headed by Berlusconi take one vote more than the one headed by the Democratic Party, they can gain the so-called "majority prize", which is equal to several Senate members.

What kind of person is going to be impacted by Balotelli’s move?
I'd say mostly Milan supporters. Most of them were unsatisfied with last season's results and market choices, so Berlusconi buying Balotelli is seen as great news for three reasons: he bought a VIP player, the team becomes more valuable and Balotelli has always been an AC supporter, even when he was at Inter Milan. So AC Milan's successes may bring new votes because people will see Berlusconi as a good president again.

Balotelli arriving in Milan caused police to hit his fans with their sticks.

How will Berlusconi's little brother's racist comments affect all this?
I don't think it will impact the polls too much. All it's done is confirm something everyone already knows – that Paolo Berlusconi is an asshole, which is why Silvio tries to push him as far away as possible from any real responsibility. And from TV cameras.

Have there ever been any other transfers Silvio’s used to his advantage come election time?
The last examples are when Shevchenko was sold to Chelsea right after the election – as opposed to before – to prevent a negative effect on votes. Then, three years ago when it was announced Kaka was leaving, Berlusconi saw how badly that was affecting him in the polls, so said "Kaka will never leave Milan." Then, right after the election, he went to Real Madrid.

Did those sales affect him in the polls later on?
We know Silvio is an expert of strategy and polls, so trust me – if we look at the date of buying and selling of players, they are always linked to a political campaign and a bid to potentially gain votes.

He's a clever guy, is Berlusconi. Thanks, Gianfillipo.

Follow James on Twitter: @bainosorus

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