Many feel that England's fate in tomorrow's Euro 2012 quarter-final against Italy will be decided by an anarchist with a crazy haircut once publicly dismissed as a world-class prospect by Jose Mourinho and who has a disciplinary record that says you simply do not know what he is going to do next.
But then enough of Wayne Rooney.
Mario Balotelli, is, of course, the other maverick man of destiny when England attempt to defeat a front-rank football nation for the first time in major tournament knock-out action away from their own shores since they won the 1966 World Cup.
However, as the air hangs here like molten lead, there surely has to be another more persuasive suspicion.
It is that the issue will be shaped most profoundly by the subtleties of mind and feet of the Azzurri's celebrated playmaker Andrea Pirlo or, who knows, the new and rampaging leadership of England's Steven Gerrard.
Of course, Rooney, even a version as badly in need of match sharpness as the one who appeared against Ukraine on that taut night in Donetsk, has shown again that he can intrude decisively into the action simply by his innate understanding of where to be on the football field.
And yes, Balotelli can emerge from the chaos of his life to do wondrous things, most recently when sending home the Irish with a trademarked, blood-curdling drive.
But it is the veteran Pirlo who carries the most enduring aura against an England whose top-place finish in Group D owed rather more - even a so-far brilliantly pragmatic coach Roy Hodgson might privately admit - to the new spirit engendered by the driving Gerrard than any evidence of sustained tactical coherence.
Everything about Pirlo is coherent. His long, unfettered locks suggest someone who is extremely easy, even maybe languid, in his own skin, but when he goes about his work his weapon of choice is the rapier.
His dead-ball kicking is one of the wonders of the modern game and sometimes it seems no one is better able to split open a defence with a barely perceptible change of pace and direction and the most surgical of passes.
It was his opening statement in this tournament, splitting wide, of all people, the Spanish with the pass that sent in Antonio Di Natale. Against Croatia, his free-kick was a breathtaking example of flight and judgement.
It is hardly surprising that a grateful Italian coach Marcello Lippi said: "Pirlo is the silent leader - he speaks with his feet."
Lippi said that after Italy won the 2006 World Cup in Berlin. Six years on, can he speak with his feet quite so eloquently for Lippi's successor Cesare Prandelli? For Hodgson it is maybe the biggest question of all. When Gerrard speaks with his feet the sound is quite often of a round of artillery but if he has been inspiring so far - and the author of possibly the finest deep cross in the history of international football when he sent one booming on to the head of Andy Carroll - it cannot be said that he has matched the creativity of the Italian.
In the two players, we have a classic divide between the mentalities of the two nations - and perhaps an explanation why England have beaten Italy only once in 35 years.
Pirlo has the ferocious football intelligence and the silkiest of touches. Gerrard, especially in his current mode, is ferocious and capable of the boldest play.
Something will have to give and on the current form line - as opposed to the final group placings - it is hard not to give Italy something of an edge.
They were superb against the Spanish, balanced, cleverly shutting down the game of La Roja, and striking out quite superbly when Pirlo fashioned the opportunity.
England will present an entirely different threat, not least in sheer physicality and fighting instincts, but soon enough we have to come back to the psychological weight of the Italian game - one that has outstripped England so thoroughly over three-and-a-half decades. England, in their heart-stopping, improbable way may well have stepped beyond some of their own worst fears under the impressive prompting of Hodgson. They may have in such as Gerrard, a sharper Rooney and Joe Hart the characters to counter and overcome the swordsman Pirlo. This is what the heart says. However, the head cannot be said to be in total agreement.
Germany coach Joachim Loew's bold gamble to reshuffle his entire forward line against Greece paid off in a big way.
Two of the three new men up front scored in the Germans' 4-2 win and one of them, 34-year-old Miroslav Klose, showed why he still remains a strong rival to Mario Gomez as the team's main striker.
Wingers Marco Reus and Andre Schuerrle tormented the Greek defence with their darting runs on the flanks, with Reus especially exposing the Greeks on the right before capping a bright display with a spectacular fourth goal that flew in off the crossbar.
Klose's movement opened a lot of space for his team-mates while the addition of Reus, 23, and Schuerrle, 21, gave Germany more speed that left the Greek defence out on its feet.Independent, AAPBy James Lawton