Mario Balotelli and controversy never seem that far apart. Whether the striker deserves his rather unusual brand of notoriety or not is another matter, but it's hard to argue that it doesn't exist; that he doesn't appear able to turn the most mundane of actions into the most sensational of headlines with relative ease.
For Balotelli, though, there's one surefire way to know if he's gone too far. To determine if he's crossed any line. That way is to see how children react to him. As long as they don't run in terror from the towering striker, it seems, then Balotelli can sleep at night knowing he isn't the disruptive, negative character some would paint him as.
"Every morning, when I wake up, I think that maybe yesterday people are speaking bad things about me," Balotelli told Sport magazine. "But then I see kids coming up to me and I think I'm not doing that bad. I could do better—of course I could do better—but kids are natural, they are honest. If they look at you and don't like you, they don't come up to you.
"So if I see them always coming up to me, then it means I can't be that bad, either as a footballer or a person. When kids stop asking for my autograph or a picture or whatever, then maybe I will start to think that I need to change something about myself. This is why I love kids."
Kids also tend to be fascinated by bright and unusual haircuts and most wouldn't pass up the chance to maybe fire off a few fireworks. The reality, though, is that despite some of Balotelli's bad press over the years, there has always been something childlike and, in a way, innocent about his supposed misdeeds in that they at least seem to lack malice.
Whether kids would be able to identify malice where it there or whether the liverbird mohawk and his status as a footballer might compel them to seek out pictures and autographs anyhow, of course, is another question. Still, it's a place to start: if children don't run screaming from you, you're probably less likely to be a horrible person.