Mario Balotelli: 'I may be a little mad, but I am not the maddest'
The striker talks fireworks, fouls and football in a candid interview by his former team-mate Olivier Dacourt
Mario Balotelli has declared, in the course of an interview which attempts to analyse his remarkable on-field sangfroid, that he is motivated to prosper at Manchester City because of those who said of his manager Roberto Mancini: "Look, he bought Mario. What a cock-up." The interview, conducted by Olivier Dacourt, a one-time Internazionale team-mate, provides further evidence of the striker's remarkable relationship with Mancini, whom those closest to the striker believe he may follow wherever he goes.
"He spent a lot to get me, he had great confidence in me, so I feel more responsibility towards him, so I can't let myself do stupid things," Balotelli told Dacourt in an interview which benefits from the former France international's brutal honesty with the Italian. "Every time I play well, I'm pleased for myself, but I'm also pleased for him too. [People say] 'Look, he bought Mario, what a cock-up, but now he's strong, he's strong.' Perhaps in football, I'm getting better technically. I used to be a complete disaster!"
Balotelli has rarely gone in for much of the analysis of which he is intellectually capable during his two seasons in England, though he told his family he was flattered to be asked for an interview by Dacourt, working for Téléfoot. When Dacourt asked him if his coolness masked pressure, he said: "No. Truly no. You know you can't replay the big games – so you must give everything in these games. All that you have learnt, all that God has given you, all that you have inside of you, you must use it all in these games. You work, you earn money, you enjoy this game, all with the express aim of hitting these highs. If you don't give everything you've just wasted your time."
It was Mancini who suggested Balotelli might be a future Ballon d'Or winner, though the 21-year-old tells Dacourt his destiny may be in other hands where that prize is concerned. "Yes, I think I can [win it] but [Lionel] Messi needs to drop a level or it will never happen!"
The Italian provides further glimpses into his remarkable off-field life in an interview by Noel Gallagher which will be screened on BBC1's Football Focus at 12.15 today. The interview offers Balotelli the chance to dispel some of the urban myths which have been enjoyed by showbusiness writers. The stories of him having Dj-ing lessons, driving around Manchester dressed as Father Christmas dishing out money and paying for other motorists' petrol are evidently such myths – as is the one about him buying drinks for all at The Tudor pub at Peel Hall in Wythenshawe.
But Balotelli really has taken magic lessons from a practitioner of that art whom he met at Manchester's Trafford Centre and subsequently invited to his house. (He has mastered one trick but it's a "difficult" one). And he really did go to the John Lewis store at Cheadle to buy his mother an ironing board, only to emerge with a quad bike and a trampoline. "Why he have to go mad?" Balotelli says of Mancini's reaction to that. The City manager may be reassured to know that his player wears the necessary helmet.
The striker explains the grass allergy which required treatment during his side's defeat at Dynamo Kiev last winter. "I'm allergic to the dry grass," he said. "Not the grass – the green one – the brown one. [The allergy] is like under my skin. I have to scratch." And there is his most detailed explanation to date of that firework incident in the toilet of his rented property in Mottram St Andrew, which saw the fire brigade called and Balotelli moved out, never to return. Balotelli said he had found a metal bin to place the fireworks in but instead one of his friends placed one in the toilet. "They just start screaming blah, blah, blah and the fireworks was going off and they put the fireworks on the bed – not on the bed sorry on the toilet," he said. "The curtain caught on fire. That's it – nothing else. Just the toilet was lost."
It was 24 hours after that saga that Balotelli wore his "Why always me?" T-shirt in a 6-1 demolition of Manchester United and the striker tells Gallagher that he was questioning the attitudes of those who chronicle his actions, rather than questioning himself. "[It was] just a message," Balotelli said. "It's not a question. It was to all the people that just talk bad about me and say stuff not nice about me. They don't know me so [I was] just asking: why always me, like, why always me?"
With Dacourt, Balotelli discussed the challenge on Tottenham Hotspur's Scott Parker which saw him receive a three-game retrospective ban.
"You know I absolutely didn't want to do [Parker] any harm," he said. "I didn't want to foul him. But you know, afterwards people have decided to interpret it like that. Then, the fact that [the FA] suspended me, well that's their problem. If they consider me a normal player, they must judge me like a normal player. But since they think of me like a player who's a bit out of the ordinary, they should also be more vigilant about what people do to me, but they only ever look at what I might do to others."
Dacourt presses Balotelli on the theory that all geniuses are mad. "A little bit perhaps," he says. "It's not me who's the maddest, that's for sure."
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