‘I’ve grown up but I’m still going to strip clubs’, says Manchester City's Mario Balotelli
MARIO Balotelli insists he has finally grown up - although he is not about to get married or stop visiting strip clubs.
The Italian striker, who joined Manchester City for £24 million from Inter Milan at the start of last season, has made a big impact in England. The 21 year-old continues to make headlines off the field but insists he is making more of an effort on the training ground.
"This year I have already scored 14 goals and a pair of penalties, and the intensity and effort I put into training this year, are not comparable to last season," he told La Gazzetta dello Sport.
"I have grown up, I have understood certain things."
The latest controversy saw Balotelli pictured leaving a Liverpool strip club on Friday night, less than 48 hours before City's Premier League clash with Bolton Wanderers and only two days after he was dropped from the Italian national side.
Balotelli was selected for the game but took only one of his nine opportunities in the 2-0 win.
Afterwards manager Roberto Mancini confirmed his anger and stated he would be fining his striker the maximum fine of £250,000, the equivalent of two weeks wages.
Mancini admitted that he would like to see Balotelli settle and maybe even get married to try and curb some of his antics, but the youngster insists that is not on the cards just yet.
"Do I think to marry? For me it is not soon," he admitted.
"When you find the right person, it may be the time. Raffaella (his girlfriend) is the best thing that ever happened to me. It gives me peace of mind, she understands me when I make a mess.
"How did she take my evening at the strip club? Well I'd have got angry if she went to a male strippers' club with her friends."
He added: "I have not done anything wrong at the strip club, even though I was wrong to go there two days before a game.
"The fine? I don't know yet. I have to talk with Mancini."
Balotelli was left out of the squad for Italy's international friendly defeat by the United States this week with coach Cesare Prandelli publicly citing the player's indiscipline as a reason.
Prandelli's stance was even backed by Mancini who said last week: "I think it is correct. We know that Mario is a top player but he should improve his behaviour.
"For the national team it is important. When you go to play in the European Championship and you only play three or five games, you should have good behaviour."
But Balotelli admits he was hurt to be left out.
"The exclusion from the national team? I was very disappointed," he admitted.
"I often say in the locker room: Barcelona? Real Madrid? For me the most fascinating shirt is that of my national team, for the feeling that I want to represent Italy.
"I'm sorry to have lost a friendly match in Genoa (against USA). There is a code of ethics and I accept it, although I don't think I deserved it, I had done nothing wrong.
"But to dissolve the misunderstanding, I sent an SMS to Prandelli. I assured him that I feel calm and I'm training well. Then I said thank you once again, because he always had confidence in me."