Earlier today, an exclusive tell-all interview on Milan’s Mario Balotelli was published for the world by La Gazzetta dello Sport. Andrea Di Caro interviewed the polarizing talent, covering the Italian’s first spell with the club, the Azzurri, the next phase of his life as a footballer and the impact his late father has on him, among other things.
If you have not had the chance to read the interview in it’s entirety, we highly recommend you do so. But, in this article we will include excerpts directly from the interview while providing a reaction to the 25-year old’s words to try and dig deeper into the mind of Mario Balotelli.
Here is how the interview opened. Balotelli:
“I feel like I’ve just moved past the first part of my career. I played and lived like a youngster. Nothing went well and I’ve thrown away several chances. But the match isn’t over yet. I still have a second half ahead of me. Now I will play and live it like a man. I must try to do so, and I am certain I will.”
When asked by Di Caro if this was his last chance as Adriano Galliani quoted:
“I have a promise I must keep with myself, my family, Milan, Mihajlović, Raiola and whoever wishes me well. I am restarting from zero. I know that I can’t make any more mistakes, I can’t expect anything and I must win everything back…My match isn’t over yet.”
With this move, it’s clear that many parties are behind him and ready to accept a changed man. A father and a footballer who wants to show that this new chapter will be more defining than his previous one.
Mario’s daughter Pia has always been one of the few constants in his life. Despite all of the mistakes he has made and every opportunity he has spoiled, his daughter has kept him level headed.
“When Pia smiles, the world, that sometimes seems to be in black and white, returns to having colour. I’m crazy in love with my daughter. When my relationship started with her, everything changed. Now she recognizes me, she understands and it is a wonderful feeling. I will try to have her closer to Milan, I want her beside me, as close as possible.”
When Mario was asked how this return came about, especially after his comments from last summer after he left for Liverpool, the former Inter striker said:
“All of a sudden Mino told me on Saturday ‘Get your luggage and get on a private plane, you are going back to Milan,’…Returning here is a dream that I have realized, it is a second chance that many have not had. Milan are providing me that and I am lucky.”
The 2014-15 season back in England with Liverpool held high hopes but to no avail. The striker struggled to find a rhythm back in the Premier League, finding the back of the net only 4 times in 28 matches throughout all competitions (via transfermarkt). While its clear he found it difficult to integrate into Rodgers’ scheme, many of his appearances were for short spells which is difficult as this game involves form and repetition as components for success. Balotelli:
“I must accept my faults, but the formation chosen by Rodgers was not suited to my characteristics…But I never complained, I accepted the decisions of the manager and I always behaved like a professional. The professional Mario didn’t just land here in Milanello, even at Liverpool my behaviour and lifestyle were normal. Over the last year, there was never a problem with my private life.”
Newly appointed manager Siniša Mihajlović was involved in the decision to bring back Mario and he is very familiar with who the Italian is and how he goes about his business. Mihajlovic and Balotelli spent time together at Inter when the former Serbian national team manager served as an assistant to current boss Roberto Mancini. Milan’s manager has experience working with the troubled footballer but their relationship appears to be different from any other leader Mario has worked with. Mario:
“The coach has known me since I was a child. My problem has never been my quality, but my character. There are always a lot of voices surrounding me, every aspect of me is amplified. Rightly so he (Mihajlović) wanted to look into my eyes, to understand whether I had the right motivation. He listened to me, without being influenced by what is said, and for that alone I thank him.”
Mario explained how he talked to Mihajlović, trying to sway him that this time he will do everything he can to repay for this opportunity. The Azzurri striker told the new shot caller:
“That I understood my errors. That if he gave me this chance, I would not disappoint him. That I will give all that I have. That I am a man and that I no longer create problems. That I will accept all of his decisions.”
Balotelli created many issues for himself due to his behavior, both on and off the pitch. When you carry the personality that he does while partaking in activities that may threaten your reputation, it’s fair to say that he has brought a lot upon himself. However, media outlets look to him as an easy target and one who can “make a headline,” or sell papers. The Euro 2012 star addressed his relationship with the media:
“I want to be judged for what I show on the field. I know that is not always possible and I must accept that. But I don’t have to pretend that I like it. Especially when there is so much written or said about me that is false…And I must ask: how can one be criticized all year, but then be asked to make a difference and help win when I play for the national team?”
Staying on the subject of the national team, Mario Balotelli has made it clear that he fully intends to be in France next summer for Euro 2016 for his country. But this inclusion goes deeper than just wearing the nation’s colours.
Mario, as many are aware of, was adopted by an Italian family, the Balotelli’s. Silvia and Francesco (Franco) Balotelli have played a huge role in Mario’s life and he has always expressed his love for them. Recently, Franco passed away and now Mario wants to return to the national side in honor of his father who wished to see him back representing his country. When asked about the European Championship next summer:
“Yes I am thinking about them, I want to do well with Milan in order to win back my place in the Azzurri squad. But now I must just work. One step at a time. If I put enough performances together then maybe I will get to France…I want to play in the Euros, and I will do everything I can to do so. Seeing myself with the shirt of the national team was one of my father’s last wishes before he passed away. I owe it to him.”
After the upcoming match against Empoli at the San Siro, the Rossoneri will battle their rival and Mario’s former club Internazionale. Di Caro asked the changed striker about how it would feel to hit the back of the net in the Derby della Madonnina:
“Ah, I won’t fall for that. Are you looking for a headline for the interview? I’m sorry but I won’t say. That’s also because every time I’ve said I will score it has brought me bad luck…But if you find a player that wouldn’t be happy to score in the derby then let me know.”
On the topic of racism, Mario expressed how he will cope with any potential “jeers” from opposing fans. Throughout his career, the Palermo-born man has received harsh treatment from opposing fans due to his skin colour and despite the society’s advancement on the matter of racism, many still have not learned to respect everyone fairly. Mario:
“Racism must not be accepted, it must be crushed…Respect is needed. They ‘buuu’ because of my skin when I am an opponent, and then when I wear the Azzurri shirt they are the same ones to ask me to score. It’s absurd.”
Lastly, we now know that this move back to Milan has many clauses tied to Mario and his behavior. Aside from his efforts and demeanor as a player being closely monitored, the club has made it clear with these clauses that they will not tolerate unprofessionalism. Asked by Di Caro, Mario addressed the terms in the contract:
“I have been asked to tone down my look, to follow Milan’s style and I will follow that without issue. I have had this haircut for a long time, I won’t take it too far. I wear a pendant, it’s flashy, it’s true, but you know who gave it to me? My mother. It says ‘professionalism, humility, hard work’. Should I take that off? I may not be liked, but I never hurt anyone. If I’ve damaged anything it is my career, nothing else.”
The return of Mario Balotelli will be closely monitored; by Milan, Italy, Europe and the entire footballing world. His words seem genuine and we hope his “second half” shows that he has finally changed as a footballer and father but mostly, a man.
At the age of 25 and with many years of life ahead of him, we all hope that he can come out this half and prove to the world, and himself, that he has turned the page on the past and is poised for success.