Mario Balotelli scores twice on AC Milan debut at San Siro
As Manchester City slip further behind United, Balotelli shows his old team what might have been
ON THE SAME day that Manchester City's hopes of retaining their Premier League crown suffered another blow, Mario Balotelli was showing the Sky Blues what might have been.
The maverick striker scored twice for AC Milan on his debut, just four days after completing a £19m move from Manchester City. While City were being held at home 2-2 by Liverpool – a result that leaves them nine points behind leaders Manchester United – Balotelli inspired AC Milan to a 2-1 victory over Udinese.
Balotelli wasn't even in the starting XI initially but when Giampaolo Pazzini pulled up during the warm-up he was handed his debut. He soon showed the San Siro faithful what they might expect over the coming seasons when he put Milan ahead on 25 minutes.
Udinese later levelled but Balotelli had the last word when he scored from the penalty spot in stoppage time, calmly sending the keeper the wrong way after Stephan Al Shaarawy had been fouled.
Earlier in the day, City boss Roberto Mancini had used an interview on Italian radio to offer Balotelli some words of advice: "Mario only has to understand that he has the good fortune to know how to play football because the life of a footballer passes quickly. It's enough to look at Adriano [the Brazilian striker who underperformed at Inter]. He was the best in the world and in a short space of time he disappeared."
The victory lifts AC Milan into fourth in Serie A, above rivals Inter Milan, and club owner Silvio Berlusconi will be hoping the return to Italy of the prodigal son will bring in the punters. The average attendance at the San Siro this season is 35,000 and one of the reasons why AC Milan took a risk in buying the volatile Balotelli was to help boost home attendances.
Balotelli meanwhile appears delighted to be finally free of Manchester City – and England in general. Introduced to the Italian press as an AC Milan player, he was asked what he'll miss about England. "My team-mates and manager," he said, explaining they were the "good things" about living in England. "And the bad things - everything else. The press, first. The weather. The food. The way you drive. That's it."
Balotelli supported AC Milan as a boy and in signing for them he declared: "It has always been a dream for me to play for Milan and I am happy to be back near my family but I would rather play than talk about it."
So far so good.