Mario casts eye on golden ball

Mario Balotelli of OGC Nice reacts during the French Ligue 1 soccer match between OGC Nice and Olympique Marseille in Nice, France, on Sept 11, 2016.
Mario Balotelli of OGC Nice reacts during the French Ligue 1 soccer match between OGC Nice and Olympique Marseille in Nice, France, on Sept 11, 2016. PHOTO: EPA
Nice striker Mario Balotelli evading the challenge of Marseille's William Vainqueur. The Italian opened his Ligue 1 account with a double to help his side to a 3-2 win, ending his year-long goal drought.
Nice striker Mario Balotelli evading the challenge of Marseille's William Vainqueur. The Italian opened his Ligue 1 account with a double to help his side to a 3-2 win, ending his year-long goal drought.PHOTO: EPA

Italian believes he can win award after hitting two goals, pours scorn on time at Liverpool

PARIS • Mario Balotelli was once again making headlines on and off the field, scoring twice on his Nice debut on Sunday before calling his Liverpool move "the worst mistake of my life".

The Italian footballer, who moved from Liverpool on transfer deadline day after a desperate spell at Anfield, struck after seven minutes with a penalty, his first league goal since Sept 22 last year.

The 26-year-old added a second, 12 minutes from time, after the visitors Marseille had taken the lead through Florian Thauvin and Bafetimbi Gomis before Wylan Cyprien snatched a 3-2 victory for Nice in the 87th minute.

The two Ligue goals were more in 78 minutes for Nice than his entire Premier League total at Liverpool - which amounted to a solitary strike against Tottenham Hotspur.

The controversial Italian arrived at Anfield from AC Milan with the unenviable task of replacing the outbound Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez in 2014.


Nice striker Mario Balotelli evading the challenge of Marseille’s William Vainqueur. The Italian opened his Ligue 1 account with a double to help his side to a 3-2 win, ending his year-long goal drought. PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

However, he failed to make a positive impact for Liverpool and was sent back to Milan for the entirety of last season.

Rather than accepting criticism for his wretched spell in England, Balotelli told the French television station Canal Plus that the club were to blame.

Asked by a reporter what had gone wrong in his career, he said: "I joined Liverpool. It was the worst mistake of my life.

"Apart from the fans, who were fantastic with me, I must be honest, and some players, who I had a good rapport with, I didn't like the club.

"I had two coaches, Brendan Rodgers and Jurgen Klopp. As people they didn't make a good impression on me. I didn't get along with them."

Rodgers, who signed Balotelli, was sacked as Liverpool manager in October last year, with Jurgen Klopp taking over.

Balotelli also said that he could not wait to get out of Anfield, comparing his situation to that of Manchester United striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

PRIZE IS WITHIN REACH

It is not too late for me to win the Ballon d'Or. I think I could have already won it by now, but I might be able to win it within two to three years by working hard and staying serious.

MARIO BALOTELLI, Nice striker, remaining ambitious about his targets.

He told Canal Plus: "Zlatan is someone you can put against lions and he is calm, you put him next to relaxed people and he's the same.

"I am not like him. I need to be relaxed and have good people around me."

The controversial Italian still firmly believes in his own ability, even if many people feel his attitude has scuppered his chances of becoming a truly world class striker.

"It is not too late for me to win the Ballon d'Or (given out to the world player of the year)," he said.

"I think I could have already won it by now, but I might be able to win it within two to three years by working hard and staying serious.

"Over the past two years, my work ethic has increased from 10 per cent to 80 per cent. I have really started working hard over the past two years."

THE GUARDIAN, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 13, 2016, with the headline 'Mario casts eye on golden ball'. Print Edition | Subscribe