Mario Balotelli has packed a lot into his 22 years. The unpredictable Italian has won four league titles, been a Champions League, Coppa Italia and FA Cup winner, a runner-up at Euro 2012 and still found time to light up his house with a firework, give a tramp £1,000 and be out-foxed by a training bib.
We can now add to those achievements his—perhaps surprising—inclusion in Time Magazine's 2013 list of the world's 100 most influential people.
Balotelli joins an illustrious cast and has been selected in the 14-strong "icons" category, alongside the likes of Justin Timberlake, Michelle Obama, Daniel Day-Lewis and Kate Middleton (see the full list here).
The AC Milan striker is the only footballer to make the 100. The only other sports stars on the list are basketball star LeBron James, skier Lindsay Von and tennis player Li Na.
From afar, people may think he’s a madman, but he isn’t. Mario is a lovely guy, very humble and very funny. I can assure people he has always been a pleasure to deal with. He has returned to Italy from England as the main man with lots of attention. Now he has to ensure he keeps control and keeps focus. Mario loves the pressure, but to succeed, it is about finding balance.
Balotelli was a Time Magazine cover star in November (see above), where the story was of his fight against inbuilt racial prejudice in Italy and his struggle to become the Italian national team's first genuine black star. Racial abuse has followed his career in Italy and abroad.
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BALOTELLI'S TIME - Now it's official. Mario Balotelli has been included in Time magazine's list of the most influe... http://t.co/rj19uyydPo4/18/2013, 5:29:40 PM
Balotelli has fought a vocal war against racism in football and threatened to leave the field if racially abused at Euro 2012 (BBC).
"Racism is unacceptable to me, I cannot bear it. We are in 2012, it can't happen," he said on the eve of that tournament (BBC).
It is that stance combined with his status as one of the most compelling characters in the world's most popular sport that has earned Balotelli a place on Time Magazine's list. What he'll think about being ranked among the likes of North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un, Pope Francis and Beyonce remains to be seen.
Whatever he thinks will make for a great soundbite.
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