MILAN (AFP) - Liverpool misfit Mario Balotelli claims he has left his childish ways behind and is ready to knuckle down at AC Milan as he bids to fulfil his dying father's wish of playing for Italy again.
Balotelli's return to the Rossoneri on a one-season loan deal has been met with derision in Italy, with pundits and most fans opposed to the striker's return to the club he left only a year ago.
Balotelli spectacularly underperformed at Anfield, instead embellishing his reputation as a "liability" - the view of former Reds legend Graeme Souness, among others.
Against his own expectations, the 25-year-old has been given a second chance by Milan. But he knows it could be his last with a top club.
Coach Sinisa Mihajlovic and Milan have instigated a special code of conduct for Balotelli, a player who in the past has riled fans and clubs with his off-field antics, outrageous hairstyles and outings to nightclubs where he has enjoyed the odd cigarette.
Balotelli has pledged to comply - and with good reason. His adoptive father Francesco, whose dying wish was to see Balotelli don the Italy shirt again, died last month. He is also close to his two-year-old daughter Pia, born to ex-girlfriend Raffaella Fico, who is based in Italy.
"Seeing me back in the Azzurri shirt was one of his dreams before he died. I owe it to him," said Balotelli of his late father.
"I feel like a player who's just finished the first half of his career. I played and lived like a kid. It hasn't always gone well, I've wasted a lot of opportunities. But the game's not over, I still have a second half to play. Now, I'll play it like a man.
"I know a lot of people don't believe in my comeback, it's up to me to prove them wrong. I've made a promise to myself, and all the people who support me... I'm starting from zero and know I can't mess this one up."