Born in Italy to Ghanaian parents, Mario Barwuah suffered life-threatening health problems as a baby.
By the age of three he had recovered, but his parents then entrusted him to a foster family - the Balotellis - and Mario grew up in the affluent village of Concesio.
He began his football career with Lumezzane, earning promotion to the first team at the age of just 15. Balotelli's skill soon brought him to the attention of the biggest clubs in Italy, and he was duly signed by Inter Milan in 2006.
Having made his first team debut in 2007, he became the youngest Inter player to score in the Champions League in November 2008.
His second season at Inter was blighted by disciplinary problems, however, and a series of high-profile clashes with manager Jose Mourinho, along with criticism from his team-mates for his behaviour on the pitch, paved the way for a move to the Premier League. Reunited with former boss Roberto Mancini at Manchester City, Balotelli soon made his mark on English football with a series of stunning goals - and yet more incidents, leading to Balotelli being the subject of increasingly implausible newspaper reports about his antics. But the season was to end in glory, with a man-of-the-match performances as City won the FA Cup, and Balotelli was then instrumental in City's incredible 2011/12 campaign, providing the assist that led to Sergio Aguero's Premier League-winning goal. A stunning performance in the Euro 2012 semi-final against Germany sealed Balotelli's status as a legend among Italian fans, and he is sure to provide entertainment, goals and controversy for years to come.
Mercurial, troublesome and frequently briliant, this is the incredible story of the most fascinating man in world football today.