Mario Balotelli speaks! But only to Noel Gallagher
Manchester City striker refuses to talk to BBC journalists but opens up to Oasis star
MARIO BALOTELLI has given what promises to be one of the most intriguing interviews of the season, but only after the BBC drafted in Oasis singer and Manchester City fan Noel Gallagher to talk to him, when the striker refused to speak to journalists.
The chat, which took five weeks of intensive negotiations to arrange, will be broadcast on Saturday, but some details have already leaked out. Enough to suggest that Balotelli, who almost burned down his house with a firework in the autumn and was pictured outside a strip club last week, is actually a private chap who likes to spend his evenings in his local, sipping orange juice.
Football Focus presenter Dan Walker lifted the lid on the cloak-and-dagger operation that was required to get Balotelli in front of the camera.
"Manchester City are inundated with requests throughout the season but 99.9 per cent of them are turned down because the player simply says 'no'," he writes on his BBC blog.
It was only when Walker suggested getting Gallagher to talk to him that the player become interested. "Cue two weeks of conversations with agents, agencies, friends and friends of friends to find a suitable date and a suitable location."
Walker says the pair's conversation was illuminating, and surprising. "Balotelli comes across as a shy, slightly awkward individual, almost entirely unaware of the talent he has at his disposal and slowly coming to terms with the responsibility that accompanies his fame," he says. "When asked if he had a question for Noel at the end of the interview, he said: 'Why do you like me so much?'"
The striker admitted that he needed to grow up after a string of controversies on and off the pitch, and said he respected his manager and mentor Roberto Mancini, whom he knew at Inter Milan.
"If Mancini says something, he's right," said Balotelli. "But I'm 21, so I'm still young. I think from last year, already I'm bigger [older] in my head."
He admitted finding life in the limelight hard to deal with. "I don't like when people talk about my business or my life," he said. "I'm really private. Maybe someone thinks I'm arrogant or something but it is just me.
"I don't care, they can say what they want. I just walk in town like a normal guy. I go to the pub. Not to drink."
Football Focus, 12.15 pm, BBC1, Saturday 10 March. ·