Nicely played as Mario helps club leap to top

PARIS • Controversial footballer Mario Balotelli continued his fine start to life on the French Riviera by helping fire Nice to the top of Ligue 1 on Wednesday.

The Italy international scored his second brace in as many league appearances for Nice in a 4-0 thumping of local rivals Monaco to help leap-frog champions Paris Saint-Germain at the top of the table.

And almost immediately his agent suggested his client would welcome a return to the English Premier League next season.

The often wayward 26-year-old now has four goals in three games since he joined the Cote d'Azur outfit on a free transfer from English club Liverpool, where his career had stalled over the last couple of years.

It means in his two league appearances this season, Balotelli has already scored twice as many goals as he did in league matches over the previous two seasons combined.

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  • League goals scored by Mario Balotelli in two matches with French Ligue 1 club Nice.

He scored once in 20 Serie A appearances on loan at AC Milan last season and one in 16 Premier League matches for Liverpool the previous campaign.

"Long may it continue," said Nice scorer Paul Baysse of Balotelli's start. "He's a great player who also works hard for the team. He tries hard and he has the right mentality.

"Everyone knows he's a good player, that he's managing to buy into the team spirit is great for everyone."

Balotelli had also scored a brace on his league debut for Nice in a 3-2 victory over another south-coast rivals in fallen giants Marseille.

And, although the former AC Milan and Inter Milan striker has described his decision to move to Liverpool as the "biggest mistake of my life", the player's controversial agent, Mino Raiola, reckons Balotelli will be ripe for a return to the Premier League next season.

"If he proves he can become stable at Nice and score goals then imagine how attractive he would be to a Premier League manager next summer as a free agent," said Raiola.

"France needs him, like they needed Zlatan (Ibrahimovic). He is good for the league but he will absolutely return to the Premier League."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 23, 2016, with the headline 'Nicely played as Mario helps club leap to top'. Subscribe