The Italian has frustrated and infuriated during his two-and-a-half years in England, but the Premier League will be a poorer place for his departure, although the sideshow that comes with the striker may not be missed quite so much.
Certainly, City could have done with more options last night as they struggled against QPR. Both sides missed chances; the two goalkeepers enjoyed moments of brilliance.
But there was no spark, no intrigue as City missed a wonderful chance to close the gap on Manchester United to two points.
A fee of €22m will scarcely register with City, but the loss of two points will.
Ultimately, the madcap era of burning houses, ‘Why Always Me?’ T-shirts and camouflaged cars is no more at City. Perhaps they are even growing up, but there was a sense of genuine loss about his departure.
“We are sad as Mario was a very important player for us,” said Mancini afterwards. “With him we won one Premier League, one FA Cup. He is a fantastic player but this was a great chance for him to play for a great club.
“To go back to Italy is important for him and he can improve. I will be happy if he can be one of the best players in the world.
“For me, Mario is like my child. You can be upset with him but he is a lovely guy. I have invested a lot of time with all my players.
“All the players will miss him. When he left the team hotel today all the players were sad. He is a good guy who lived with us for three years. This will have been a good experience for him.”
Balotelli to Milan! #ecstatic— Andrew McParlane (@armcparlane1) January 30, 2013
But the Balotelli intrigue simply highlighted how short of ideas City were going forward — and it felt Mancini was making a point when he replaced Carlos Tevez with Jack Rodwell with 20 minutes remaining.
There was the odd moment, usually sparked by David Silva or Sergio Aguero, but this was a strangely listless performance.
They had chances, notably when Pablo Zabaleta hit the bar from Silva’s cross in the first half, while Gareth Barry was denied by a wonderful save from Julio Cesar.
But in between those opportunities the hosts had the best chance of the entire game as Adel Taarabt strode clear only to be denied by Joe Hart.
A point was a fine result for QPR, but they need more as they remain rooted to the bottom of the table. Still, there were plenty of positives for Harry Redknapp, although the departure of the magnificent Ryan Nelson to Toronto FC is not one of them.
“I’m happy with a point, yes,” said Redknapp. “It’s a bonus point for us, they rip teams apart. It’s a fantastic result.
“It’s a great result for Fergie as well.”
And this was a point built on resilience and heart, words not often associated with QPR. They also lacked a little conviction going forward, but Redknapp’s priority has been to ensure Rangers are harder to beat than they were under his predecessor, Mark Hughes.
Mancini is expected to win, and win in style. It is hard not to fear for him a little when neither happen, particularly when a man he has staked his reputation on has left the club, a failure.
QPR: Julio Cesar, Onuoha, Nelsen, Hill, Traore, Mbia (Faurlin 90), Derry, Fabio, Taarabt, Granero (Park 89), Remy (Zamora 90).
MAN CITY: Hart, Zabaleta, Lescott, Javi Garcia, Clichy, Milner (Sinclair 86), Barry, Nasri (Dzeko 58),Tevez (Rodwell 73), Silva, Aguero.
Referee: Phil Dowd (Staffordshire).