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Wed Apr 23 19:23:09 SAST 2014

I’m a man, not Peter Pan - Balotelli

Philip O’Connor, Reuters | 24 June, 2012 10:030 Comments
Italy Training and Press Conference - Quarter Final: UEFA EURO 2012
Mario Balotelli of Italy attends a training session at Olympic Stadium on June 23, 2012 in Kiev, Ukraine
Image by: Claudio Villa / Getty Images

Mario Balotelli has grown up and is no longer like Peter Pan, the Italian striker told a news conference on Saturday ahead of Italy’s Euro 2012 quarter-final against England.

Balotelli was responding to comments made by his agent Mina Raiola, who compared his client to the fictional character created by J.M. Barrie who could fly and refused to grow up.

“I think these are metaphors for Mario the person, not Mario the footballer. I think I’m a man — I don’t think I need to say it, but I am.

“I could be Peter Pan in that I do things my own way and I’m very free, but I think I’m more of a man than Peter Pan.”

After a slow start to his Euro 2012 campaign, Balotelli found the net in Italy’s final group game against Ireland, and the Manchester City striker said he was looking forward to playing against his club team mates Joe Hart and James Milner on Sunday.

“I hope it’s going to be a good match and I think it’s going to be fun to play against my team mates. They know me and I know them, so I hope that they’re going to be nice.

“But even if they are my team mates I hope they are going to lose.”

The temperamental front man faced plenty of questions about his state of mind, among them a comment by Hart.

The England goalkeeper had previously said that there were two Balotellis, one able to turn a game with an outrageous piece of skill, the other likely to get a straight red card.

“Lucky him, he knows two Mario Balotellis,” the striker quipped. 

  ORGANISED SIDE

Italy coach Cesare Prandelli told reporters that his side would have to be brave as England were one of the most compact and organised sides at the tournament.

“They play within a space of 40 yards, we need to make sure we stop them from playing football,” he said.

“The side we are going to take on has a lot of characters, it’s going to be a meeting with a very tough side. We need to go into the game without any fear, we mustn’t have any psychological hang-ups.”

Prandelli indicated that midfielder Thiago Motta had recovered from a muscle injury and should be fit to play.

“I think he has a bit of a muscle problem but he’s trained with his team mates today and is available for selection tomorrow. We’ll make a tactical choice on that.”

Andrea Barzagli said he and his fellow defenders would have to stay focused if they are to shackle England’s Wayne Rooney, who returned from suspension to score in England’s victory over hosts Ukraine.

“How do you stop him? As a team we can stop him, because there’s four of us at the back. It’s a team effort, we know just how good Rooney is and just how good England are as a side. We’ll have to be 100% focused.”

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