No love lost for Klopp as Super Mario targets Italy recall
Milan: Mario Balotelli said he plans an explosive return to the Italy national team in an interview in which he also hit out at former clubs Liverpool and AC Milan.
Balotelli has not played for Italy since defeat to Uruguay in the final group match of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil sent the Azzurri crashing out of the tournament at the first hurdle.
But he has enjoyed a lightning start with French Ligue 1 side Nice, scoring five goals in his first three league appearances to help them to the top of the table, above more-fancied Monaco and Paris Saint-Germain.
The 26-year-old was not selected for Italy’s upcoming 2018 World Cup qualifiers at home to Spain and away in Macedonia, but on current form a return to Giampiero Ventura’s squad cannot be far away.
“It was right not to select me because I didn’t deserve it,” Balotelli told Sky Sport Italia.
“It’s better for Ventura to not select me this time around because when I return, I want to be at my best.”
Known as one of the more controversial footballers of the past decade, Ballotelli appears to have turned over a new leaf.
After a torrid end to a controversial three-year spell at Manchester City, Balotelli joined AC Milan in January 2013 before moving to Liverpool in 2014.
Balotelli never settled at Anfield and returned to Milan on loan last season, only to struggle with a troubelsome groin injury.
And when Balotelli returned to Liverpool in the summer, manager Jurgen Klopp shot down his chances of regular football and advised him to move on.
Balotelli said: “Klopp doesn’t know me, I spoke to him once, he told me to go somewhere else, work hard and then return. So I said goodbye to them, and that we wouldn’t be seeing each other again.”
Balotelli claimed both Milan and Liverpool, “weren’t adapted to me”.
“It wasn’t anyone’s fault. They weren’t ideal environments for me,” he added.
“I didn’t make mistakes in terms of my game or my behaviour, but I did get injured and that’s not something I can control.”
Balotelli said the climate at seven-time European champions Milan, who have struggled to qualify for Europe in recent seasons, was “confusing”.
“The problem there is the administration,” added Balotelli.
“There’s only one person who is phenomenal, and that’s (club CEO, Adriano) Galliani. All the rest is just… confusion.”
Balotelli has six goals in five games in all competitions for Nice, where he has enjoyed a perfect start save for a red card right at the end of Sunday’s 2-1 home win over Lorient, shortly after scoring a superb late winner.
He puts his current form down to feeling settled with his new team-mates, and in his new surroundings on France’s Mediterranean coast.
“At the start, I chose Nice for the climate, I wanted to be in a relaxing but beautiful place, where it’s difficult to get out the wrong side of the bed,” he said.
“The other reason I chose Nice is because there’s a decent group of young players. We’re all about the same age.”