Mario Balotelli last night lambasted England and said there was little he liked about it apart from the football during a sullen press conference at San Siro.
An uncharacteristically restrained Balotelli – looking sober in a dark grey suit apart from Liz Taylor-size sparklers in each ear lobe – shifted uncomfortably in his seat throughout and mumbled monosyllabic answers.
At first he managed some positive comments. “English football is very beautiful. But I am back in Italy because it was my dream to play for Milan and my family is here.
“I have to say thanks to all the [Manchester] City fans who were very nice to me and who support me in all the bad moments. And I’d liked to thank [Roberto] Mancini for the support he gave me.”
But asked what he would miss about England, he gave the country both barrels: “Nothing. Apart from the football.” What didn’t he like? “Everything: the food, the weather, the press.”
An English tabloid reporter identified himself, but before he could even finish his question, Balotelli cut him short. “Ever since I’ve been there they’ve only spoken badly about me,” he responded in English, giving the stunned hack a filthy look.
Later when an Italian reporter asked if he was concerned about the expectations of Milan fans, he answered with a blunt “no”.
Questions about his notorious off-pitch antics were also brushed aside. “What Balotelli antics?” the 22-year-old striker said. “There are none.”
Asked if he’d taken offence at Milan president and owner Silvio Berlusconi’s comments only last month that he was a “rotten apple”, Balotelli responded diplomatically: “This news didn’t arrive in England and I only heard when I got here and I can’t comment.”
But the Milan director general, Adriano Galliani, immediately took umbrage. “Thanks for such a sweet question,” he glared at the female Rai Uno reporter who posed it. “But that was never said. It’s not accurate. Perhaps we can have some sensible questions.”
The reporter immediately pulled out her phone and began playing the video clip of Berlusconi in which he said: “If you put a rotten apple into the dressing room you’ll infect everyone else. I’ve had occasions to make my own mind up on Balotelli as a person and I’d never accept having him in our squad.”
Galliani also had a pop at the British press when asked if he was worried about Balotelli’s reputation as a hell-raiser. “I’m not worried. In England the press exaggerates and the Italian press reprints everything that’s in the English press.” Balotelli may have moved country but his ability to stir up an argument remains.