City star Balotelli ready to lay claim to place in Italian team
CITY MANCHESTER City forward Mario Balotelli feels he is ready to have a starring role with Italy.
Italy coach Cesare Prandelli is set to hand Balotelli a starting place in Friday's friendly against Poland with regular strikers Antonio Cassano and Giuseppe Rossi ruled out until the new year by injury.
Asked at today's national team press conference whether he felt more pressure because Cassano and Rossi were not involved at the moment, Balotelli said: "I always have pressure but I don't feel it.
"The coach expects a lot from me even with Rossi and Cassano in the team.
"We are all strong and in the future, we can enter the history books together.
"But I'm ready to assume the responsibility, I've always been ready.
"Perhaps there are people that think otherwise."
The 21-year-old Balotelli has often made headlines for the wrong reasons.
Just last month fireworks were set off in the bathroom of his house, forcing the striker to stay in a hotel just a day before the derby clash with Manchester United.
"When you are famous, there's a tendency to talk more about my personal life than what I do on the pitch," Balotelli said.
"It's normal but it annoys me.
"But I am not crazy, absolutely not, although sometimes I do strange things that are considered entertaining."
Balotelli prefers to do his talking on the pitch and he feels he has improved as a player since joining Manchester City from Inter Milan in August 2010.
"The Premier League has taught me to run a lot," he said.
"To go for the ball and when I lose it to press to recover it.
"Now I have more playing time and this gives me more confidence.
"Prandelli and (Manchester City manager Roberto) Mancini have helped me a lot, giving me the necessary calmness to play, something I didn't have previously."
The former Inter star will be hoping to score his first goal for Italy on Friday.
Balotelli has made five appearances for the Azzurri but has yet to open his goal tally.
"I need to wake up and get going," he said.
"For me scoring is the biggest thing. Victories are important but so are goals.
"I know I can arrive to the top. If I'm good up front it's not because I'm fortunate.
"I do believe I can get closer to the level of other champions but I still have a lot of work to do."
Balotelli, who is under contract at City until 2015, believes his long-term future is in the Premier League.
"I don't miss Serie A," he said. "I'm very happy to be in England.
"Italian football has been in decline.
"The Premier League is beautiful and I play for the strongest team in England.
"I want to remain at City. I don't see a return to play in Italy in the future."