Monday 20 November 2017

Italy and PSG star less than impressed by compatriot Mario Balotelli's two-goal debut for Nice

Mario Balotelli and Marco Verratti celebrate after Italy's second goal against England during 2014 World Cup
Mario Balotelli and Marco Verratti celebrate after Italy's second goal against England during 2014 World Cup

Tom Rooney

An Italian teammate has joined the long list of those to tell Mario Balotelli to start behaving like an adult and fully commit to his rarefied but extremely lucrative profession.

He’s a frustrating chap, Mario Balotelli. A true extrovert, the maverick striker has vexed managers, players and fans alike at just about every club who have been brave enough to employ him.

While at Inter Milan, he sent the blue half of the city into a state of indignation, when he donned an AC jersey while appearing on a satirical Italian TV show – the equivalent of Steven Gerrard sporting an Everton shirt on Whose Line Is It Anyway?

During that time he clashed frequently with Jose Mourinho, who was happy to see the back of Balotelli when he joined Manchester City in 2010.

At the Etihad Stadium, Roberto Mancini attempted to have an avuncular influence on Balotelli but to no avail.

Their fallouts were volcanic and often, and Mancini gladly acquiesced to his sale to Milan, having claimed that it was relationship akin to the one shared by a parent and young child.

At Milan, Balotelli certainly performed with a greater  frequency during his second stint at the San Siro, scoring 26 goals in 43 appearances, and helping the club back into the Champions League at the end of the latter campaign.

Mario Balotelli's agent Mino Raiola is determined to find a club to reignite the striker's career

Then, in a barely fathomable decision, Brendan Rodgers brought him to Anfield as he struggled to fill the considerable void left behind by Louis Suarez.

Within a season, he was back on loan at Milan, but this time he only managed a single goal in 20 appearances so the club were not exactly keen on making the move a permanent one.

Jurgen Klopp soon told him he was surplus to requirements at Liverpool and, eventually, the Reds offloaded  him to Nice for free at the end of the most recent transfer window.

The Merseyside outfit would probably have been better served throwing the £16m they paid for the Italian in a very deep pit.

Indeed, Balotelli’s pugnacious agent, Mino Raiola, described Klopp as a 'piece of shi*' for the German’s treatment of his client, but that hardly changed the narrative at all.

The 26-year-old has made the headlines for all the right reasons this week after he bagged a brace on his debut for Nice, which considerably aided their 3-2 victory over Marseille.

However, PSG and Italy midfielder Marco Verratti was not exactly blown away by Balotelli’s exploits.

"He's always had a problem with his mentality. I just hope he realises that football is not just 90 minutes, but an all week long thing. He's a good player who has always had a problem with his mentality. But I do know he's a good guy."

SOCCER Che_119.jpg
PSG's Marco Verratti, left, and Chelsea's Cesc Fabregas battle for the ball during the Champions League round of 16 first leg soccer match between Paris Saint Germain and Chelsea at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris, France, Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2015. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

The duo lined out together for the Azzurri during the last World Cup in Brazil, where Italy failed to qualify from their group for the second tournament (World Cup) in a row.

Verratti, who missed the recent Euros due to injury, was speaking ahead of PSG’s Champions League clash against Arsenal at the Parc des Princes tomorrow.

Although the Parisian side are vying for their fifth consecutive Ligue 1 title, they are currently in seventh spot, having won just two of their opening four games as the adjustment to life under new manager Unai Emery continues.

On Friday night they could only muster a 1-1 home draw with St Etienne. Despite their domestic dominance since being bought over Qatar Sports Investments, PSG’s record in the Champions League has not been stellar.

Manchester City eliminated them in the quarter final last season, while they were knocked out by Barcelona at the same stage a year previous.

It would certainly seem that Emery’s European pedigree - he guided Sevilla to three consecutive  Europa League crowns - was the main factor behind his recruitment.

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