Mario Balotelli admits strip club visit was a 'mistake'


Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli does not fear city rivals United in the battle for the Premier League title.

The enigmatic 21-year-old - who also admitted a visit to a strip club last week was a "mistake" - is confident City will finish above Sir Alex Ferguson's team.

The Blues are currently two points clear of the Red Devils.

"We are a great group," Balotelli told Gazzetta dello Sport.

"We have quality. If we remain together until the end, United will finish behind us and they are not to be feared."

Balotelli joined City in the summer of 2010 from Inter Milan and has scored 14 goals in 24 games this season.

The Italian says he is now a much better player and expects to keep improving.

"The intensity and the effort that I am giving this year, also in training, cannot be compared to that of last year," he said.

"I have grown and certain things I've understood."

Balotelli was recently left out of Italy's national team for the second time after breaching national team coach Cesare Prandelli's code of conduct.

Prandelli did not select him for the Azzurri's friendly against the United States because Balotelli was serving a four-match ban after kicking out at Tottenham's Scott Parker on January 22.

"I was hurt," Balotelli said. "I always say it in the changing room that the most fascinating jersey for me is that of the national team because of what I feel when I represent my country.

"I often think of the European Championships.

"I am saddened to have missed the friendly in Genoa (against the United States).

"There is an ethical code and I accept it, even though I don't think I deserved it."

Balotelli insists he did not intentionally stamp on Parker.

He said: "Perhaps when you slow down the image, it might appear so but I didn't touch him.

"I didn't do anything wrong so I didn't have to justify myself.

"I nevertheless sent Prandelli an SMS (text).

"In the message, I explained the situation.

"I always told him to be open with me and say where I've gone wrong.

"I guaranteed him that I am calm and that I'm training well.

"But I didn't apologise because there is nothing to apologise for."

Italy struggled without Balotelli and lost 1-0 - their first ever defeat to the United States.

"I'm not worried about the defeat to the USA and you will understand why after the European Championships," Balotelli said.

The Italy international also spoke of his latest misdemeanour.

Balotelli emerged from a Liverpool strip bar in the early hours of Friday morning ahead of Saturday's game at home to Bolton despite a club curfew.

"I didn't do anything wrong at the club," he said.

"But I understand that if she (girlfriend Raffaella Fico) had gone with her friends to a strip club, I would have been very angry.

"If you love a woman, you can avoid causing that pain.

"That was my first mistake.

"The second was to go two days before a game."

On whether he has received a £250,000 fine by City for breaking the curfew, Balotelli said: "I still don't know.

"I must talk with (City boss Roberto) Mancini."

Mancini recently said that marriage could solve Balotelli's disciplinary problems.

And Balotelli has not ruled out marrying his long-time girlfriend.

"For me it's not too soon," he said. "When you find the right person, the timing could be right.

"Raffaella is the most beautiful thing that has happened to me. She gives me calmness.

"She is very understanding when I do something wrong. We have spoken about marriage a few times but that doesn't mean that we will do it tomorrow.

"Once her work commitments allow her, she comes to Manchester. She is happy with me and I will follow her and play wherever."