Ashley Williams cost Swansea City £400,000 when they bought him, aged 23, from then League Two side Stockport County in 2008. Mario Balotelli cost Manchester City £18.5m when they bought him from Serie A giants Internazionale in 2010. He was 20 years old.
Yesterday, these two players from completely different backgrounds came together in a battle that, in all likelihood, would go a long way to deciding the outcome of the vitally important game between their two clubs. Swansea City, a side attempting to replicate their feat of 1982, when they survived in the top division for a second season against Manchester City, chasing their first League title since 1968 and desperate to finally crawl from beneath the considerable shadow cast by their red neighbours. For a completely different set of reasons, the stakes for both clubs could not have been higher.
Playing at home, Swansea were 6/1 against by the bookmakers to win the match, which suggested that the bookies felt that the flamboyant Balotelli would prevail over the more steadfast Williams in their personal battle. The playing backgrounds of Balotelli and Williams could not differ more starkly. Williams, who sought sanctuary at Hednesford Town when he was released by West Bromwich Albion as a teenager, before joining Stockport and then rising through the divisions with Swansea, compared to Balotelli who, also as a teenager, was sent to the far more appealing surroundings of Barcelona for a trial when his local club Lumezzane decided to let him go, before joining Internazionale of Milan, where a stellar career at the very highest level was predicted.
More on page 2: The dominance of Ashley Williams & match stats…