AC Milan forward Mario Balotelli has been “impeccable” according to his Italian National team boss Cesare Prandelli. This comes after the Azzurri manager insisted his team are ahead of schedule, with the Brazil World Cup edging ever closer.
Prandelli singled out his star centre forward for praise after AC Milan triumphed 1-0 over Internazionale in the Milan derby. The former Manchester City forward put in a rounded, dynamic and mature centre-forward’s display against their city rivals.
“Balotelli? He has been impeccable with us – scoring goals and behaving well” said the former Fiorentina chief, per Football-Italia.net. “I want a performance like he gave last night [against Inter]. That’s the sort of thing we expect. Major players have to do more than just score goals.”
Balotelli didn't score, but set up the goal that eventually won Milan the game with a fearsome set-piece delivery:
Beautiful delivery from the set piece by Balotelli to find De Jong who heads it in! Milan 1-0 Inter— Matteo Bonetti (@TheCalcioGuy) May 4, 2014
It’s these sorts of displays that Prandelli wants to see from Balotelli in the blue of the Azzurri, insisting the Milan forward’s game needs to be about more than just goals.
Balotelli has certainly proven himself to be a major player for the Azzurri in years gone by and Prandelli will be desperate for him to reproduce displays comparable to those showcased in EURO 2012. In that competition, the virtuoso forward finished joint-leading goalscorer in the tournament, helping Italy make an unexpected run to the final, per UEFA.com.
But after a season in which the Rossoneri have wilted, Balotelli has also struggled to find consistency.
Granted, he’s netted 16 times in all competitions this season, per WhoScored.com, but will be desperately disappointed to be languishing down in eighth place with Milan. He's endured a very streaky campaign, one that his has seen his efforts oscillate between sensational and downright awful.
From Prandelli’s perspective, he’ll be hoping that the limelight set to be thrust upon Balotelli in Brazil can galvanise him. The 23-year-old has always been a player that seems to relish the big occasion, and you can certainly see him flourishing for the Azzurri at the World Cup in a group that contains England, Uruguay and Costa Rica.
During the closing stages of the Serie A campaign, there’s been talk about a potential transfer back to England, with rumours emanating from the Rossoneri camp that the Milan hierarchy have “given up” on the player, per Ben Jefferson of the Express.
But it's imperative Balotelli remains focused ahead of what will be a monumental summer for him and his country. For a player who’s concentration and disciplinary issues have been well documented, the last thing he needs ahead of a World Cup is to be worrying about a transfer.
If Balotelli can help Italy to a strong finish at the Brazil finals, then you can guarantee there’ll be plenty of clubs willing that fancy their chances of channeling his indisputable, but undeniably raw talent.