England’s City players to face teammate Balotelli
Unpredictable as a teammate, England’s Manchester City players
may soon get a chance to see what Italy striker Mario Balotelli is
like as an opponent.
The Italians will face England in Kiev on Sunday in the European
Championship quarterfinals, and the sometimes out-of-control
Balotelli could be the one looking to score the decisive goal.
”I’ve never actually played against the guy but it’ll be a lot
of fun and it’ll be interesting to see what he brings to the
table,” Manchester City and England goalkeeper Joe Hart said
In the Premier League, Balotelli has often used his talents to
bewilder opponents over the last two seasons, but he’s been also
been prone to explode both on and off the field. There were
bathroom pyrotechnics at Balotelli’s house last year in England,
when an indoor firework display had the emergency services racing
to put out a small fire.
”He’s quite an extravagant guy,” Hart said. ”I think Mario
accepts, with the way he is, that sometimes he’s going to bring
attention to himself … you just come to love the guy because of
what he is. There’s no acting with him. He just does as he
”And when he’s on form football-wise, he’s a great
If Balotelli does start on Sunday, England center back Joleon
Lescott is likely to have the task of keeping him quiet – a month
after they celebrated winning the Premier League title together at
”Coming up against Mario is obviously going to be a tough task.
I know the quality he possesses,” Lescott said. ”He is quick,
strong, can create something out of nothing, similar to the other
world-class strikers in the tournament.
”I don’t know if it is an advantage knowing his game so well.
You could say the same thing about me. I’m sure there will be
strengths and weaknesses we will be looking to exploit against each
James Milner, another of England’s City contingent, knows not to
underestimate Balotelli, who scored 17 times last season.
”He is very strong, shooting-wise … he is tricky, a clever
player,” Milner said. ”He is a danger. There are two Marios.
There is one who turns up sometimes in training and it is a bit
cold and he is not too interested.
”The other time he really wants it, as I’m sure he will against
England, and he is a special talent.”
Although he has played his part in helping Italy reach the
quarterfinals, Balotelli risked being excluded from its Euro 2012
squad due to his misdemeanors. He was dropped for a friendly
against the United States in February after he received a
four-match suspension from the English Football Association for a
stamp on Tottenham midfielder Scott Parker, who is set to start for
England on Sunday.
The Italian media has been billing the quarterfinal as the
battle of the ”bad boys” with Balotelli also set to come up
against England striker Wayne Rooney, whose transgressions have
also regularly made headline news.
”They’re two totally different guys, but both with immense
talent, and both with the same goal for their team: to win,” Hart
said. ”A lot gets made of their off-the-field activities.”
Balotelli recently admitted to an affair with a woman who Rooney
repeatedly slept with while his wife was pregnant. Jennifer
Thompson was working as an escort when she and another call girl
were linked with Rooney in 2010.
”I think if the media took an interest in any one of our lives
like they did theirs then they’d find interesting things about
anyone in this room,” Hart said. ”They just happen to be the
people that people pick on. But I can only talk about football.
Wayne’s a fantastic footballer and obviously I’ve worked closely
with Mario and I think he’s an exceptional footballer, too.
”It will good for everyone to watch those two players doing
their thing on Sunday.”