In an interview with a Dutch magazine published this week, Mino Raiola, the agent to Mario Balotelli, recalled recently inviting his client to a meeting. Since he also advises Martin Jol and needed at the time to speak with the Fulham manager, Raiola suggested that maybe the footballer could head to Jol's place in west London for the chat. Balotelli said that was no problem. And when Raiola duly saw a taxi pitch up outside Jol's house, he assumed it would contain the young Italian.
But Mario did not get out of the cab. Instead, Raiola was astonished to see a Maserati pull in behind the taxi, out of which Balotelli climbed. It transpired that the footballer had wanted to drive there in his new pounds 80,000 motor, but was nervous about getting lost. So he hired the cab to lead the way from his Cheshire home and drove cheerfully behind. The human satnav had cost him pounds 800 for the round trip.
It is often said about Balotelli that if he did not exist it would be necessary to make him up. Except that not even the most imaginative creative mind could conjure up an invention quite as magnificent as Super Mario, the comedy gift that keeps on giving. From bathroom pyrotechnics, through ludicrous onesies and poultry headgear, to camouflaging his Bentley in the hope it would make it less conspicuous, the litany of Balo-moments grows ever longer and more amusing. It would be impossible to make up such a perfect personification of the growing disconnect between reality and top-level football. With Balotelli around we can only wonder: what is the point of satire?
Which is why we would all miss him should the rumours be true about his impending removal from Manchester City's payroll this January. Seemingly his manager, Roberto Mancini, has grown more than weary of the forward's inability to apply himself. Balotelli's presence in the team has come to be seen as indicative of the manager's lack of judgment and when a player starts to threaten the boss's own position, there is no more slack to be cut. Unless he is Fernando Torres, that is.
Balotelli's display in the Manchester derby on Sunday was pitiful. A year on from his superb show against the same opponents - summed up with his memorable celebratory T-shirt "Why Always Me?" - he was removed from the action. What irritated Mancini most was the fact that, despite indulging him constantly, the player had refused to repay his faith by displaying even a tenth of the kind of match-winning skill he showed in the European Championship semi-final in June. For a man who likes to be the centre of attention, on Sunday he was a waste of space.
But what makes Balotelli so appealing is that there is more to him than irritable inconsistency, more indeed than batty extravagance. More to him than the generosity of spirit evident in stunts like paying for homeless men to spend last Christmas in a luxury hotel. What is so endearing is that he appears to have an amused appreciation of the absurdity of his position.
Even as he stomped off the pitch at the Eithad, heading straight down the tunnel, there seemed to be a smile playing under that scowl. Even if others are tearing their hair out about his faltering contribution, he is clearly enjoying himself. And why not? If someone is prepared to pay him north of 7 million pounds a year for such performances, then why not drive down the road as he once did chucking much of it out of the window of his car. As he said to a policeman investigating one of his several motoring prangs who asked why he had pounds 5,000 in cash in his back pocket: "It's because I am rich". It was the truth. And it showed that here is someone prepared to treat the money hurled in his direction as it deserves to be treated: as a joke.
Still, it was probably not that aspect of his client that Raiola had in mind when he insisted in the interview that Balotelli was "more valuable than the Mona Lisa". Maybe so, though there is an argument after Sunday that Leonardo's masterpiece is more mobile in the box. Raiola also said that the striker would "fight to remain at Manchester City".
If he is to do that - and continue to keep us all amused - you suspect he will have to change perceptions at his club. Show some effort, sweat a bit at training, even score a few goals. Perhaps the quickest way to re-establish himself in the manager's favour would be to display the commitment weekly demonstrated by his team-mate Gareth Barry.
In fact, therein might lie the answer to his problem. Just like that cabbie, he could hire Barry to show him the way, shadow him at training, follow him into the gym. After all, Balotelli is the paradigm of the modern footballer. And no one knows better than them that money can surely buy you everything.