London: Manchester City’s new signing Mario Balotelli said on Friday he was sad to leave Italy but was looking for some calm after a troubled spell at Inter Milan.
Whether the 20-year-old striker, dubbed Super Mario, will find tranquillity at City’s Eastlands Stadium is another question, however, with the big-spending club rarely out of the news these days as they target at least a top four finish.
Awash with money from their Abu Dhabi owners, ambitious City’s mission appears to be to spend their way to the Premier League title and Roberto Mancini, the man in the manager’s hot seat, already has a dressing room full of big egos.
Balotelli’s reputation as a teenage troublemaker, albeit a precociously talented one, while at Inter means City fans will be wary of a player who cost about 24 million pounds ($37.41 million) according to British media estimates.
That is especially the case in the light of unsettled Brazilian striker Robinho’s antics since his British record 32.5 million pounds move to city from Real Madrid two years ago.
Quite what they will make of Balotelli’s remarks on his personal website is open to question.
“I’m sorry that I’m leaving Inter and Italy because I would have preferred to continue my professional career in my own country,” he was quoted as saying after passing a medical and agreeing a five-year deal at Eastlands.
“I’m going where I hope to find the space I need to play, which is very important for me; I need to play, to make mistakes, to learn and to play again -- as well as have a calm environment around me.
“It has been a difficult year. I’ve recognised my mistakes, but I think I’ve often been under pressure and on the receiving end of criticism that at times has irritated me.”
City manager Roberto Mancini, who worked with Balotelli when he was Inter coach, appeared to have no doubts he had signed a player who can help fire his promising side to their first major trophy since winning the League Cup in 1976.
“I think that Mario is one of the best players of his age in Europe, and I am very happy to be working with him again,” Mancini told the club’s website (www.mcfc.co.uk).
“His style of play will suit the Premier League and because he is still so young there is a big chance for him to improve. He is a strong and exciting player and City fans will enjoy watching him.”
Balotelli, who made his Italy debut against Ivory Coast in a friendly on Tuesday in London, picked up a bad-boy tag after repeatedly clashing with former Inter boss Jose Mourinho during their run to the treble last season.
A fervent AC Milan supporter, Balotelli annoyed Inter fans by wearing their bitter rivals’ strip on TV last season and was dropped from the team in March after Mourinho gave him “a mark close to zero” for his display in a draw against AS Roma.
He eventually apologised to the club’s Portuguese coach and was recalled to the squad in time for the Champions League semi-final against Barcelona.
Balotelli again caused controversy in that match when he threw his shorts to the ground after being booed by Inter fans.
The volatile striker, who was born in Italy but is of Ghanaian descent, hopes to escape the racist chanting he was sometimes subjected to in Serie A, especially by Juventus fans, and to which he reacted with angry gestures and comments.