Balotelli: I want to score 40 a season

April 19th, 2014

The striker is having his most successful season in his career so far but insists he wants to improve on his record of 14 goals

Mario Balotelli was delighted to mark his 50th appearance for AC Milan with his 30th goal for the club, but insists there is more to come from him.

The Italy international opened the scoring for his side as they marched to a comfortable 3-0 win over relegation-threatened Livorno on Saturday.

The goal was his 14th of the Serie A season, meaning this campaign has been his most successful to date in terms of goals and though Balotelli is happy with his current record, but is adamant he has much more to offer the Rossoneri.

“I’m happy to have achieved my personal record for goals in a season,” he told La Gazzetta dello Sport. ”But also in past seasons, especially in England, I could have scored more goals.

“I’m glad I reached a record of 14 goals but I have to improve because there are players who score 40 each year.”

The 23-year-old said he has no idea if coach Clarence Seedorf’s future is in doubt, insisting they are fully focused on the fight for European football.

“I do not know anything. The coach gave a big hand to the team. There was a great desire to recover. But it is just a great result. We will play to win and to get in the Europa League.”

Seedorf calls for Balotelli protection

April 14th, 2014

The forward has often made the headlines for dishing out his own retribution, but his coach believes it’s time referees brought a halt to the physical treatment towards him

AC Milan boss Clarence Seedorf has called on referees to start protecting Mario Balotelli against malicious opponents.

The Italy forward’s career has been blighted by numerous run-ins with officials and breaches of discipline on and off the field.

But Seedorf is convinced that the former Inter and Manchester City star is a changed man and wants those in charge to put an end to players deliberately targeting his player.

He said: “Balotelli? He has passed every test for me. I also say that he has changed his attitude and referees need to stop all the fouls that he receives.”

The 38-year-old was speaking after his side’s 1-0 win over Catania on Sunday, which saw the Rossoneri move into the top half of the table.

Balotelli has been a key man under Seedorf since he took over from Massimiliano Allegri in January and has 18 goals to his name so far this season.

'The whole team was unfit' – Seedorf jabs at Allegri

April 13th, 2014

The new coach says the poor physical condition of Robinho was typical of the entire squad when he took over as he cast doubt on his predecessor’s training methods

Clarence Seedorf has cast some thinly veiled barbs at former AC Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri, insisting that his side will soon show improvement.

Allegri was sacked after a 4-3 defeat to lowly Sassuolo in January with the Rossoneri languishing in 11th after a disastrous first half of the season and the Milanese remain in that league position under Seedorf’s leadership as the campaign draws to a close.

Speaking ahead of Milan’s game against Catania on Sunday, the Dutchman was critical of the ex-Cagliari trainer, suggesting that he even failed to keep his players, namely Robinho, in top condition.

“My management must be judged from when I arrived,” the 38-year-old told journalists.

“What happened before does not concern me. It is pointless to speak of [my coaching] philosophy. I have just started as a coach and I have more to do. Now I have to pull the most out of each player and next season will be completely different.

“Robinho, as well as the whole team, has had a large physical deficit and could not express all his talent. He was not fit when I arrived but he has shown real desire and he is one who runs the most. He has certainly been one of the most positive in training and I think his moment will come.”

Seedorf, who himself made 431 appearances and scored 60 times for the Rossoneri, stressed his belief that things were improving for his side and hoped that Milan fans could see the progress being made.

“Things are coming together,” he added.

“[Philippe] Mexes is a real leader and [Daniele] Bonera is making the defence solid.

“I’m not surprised by Mexes’ performances. Since I got here he’s been among the most proactive of the group, one of the leaders and this is why I gave him the captain’s armband in Naples. Now we see the fruits of that work because Philippe is giving personality to the team.

“Mario [Balotelli] too is showing continued growth, on and off the field, including in his private life. Also his behaviour with the referees I now consider exemplary. We’re already better now than when we faced Atletico Madrid [in the Champions League last-16].”

Milan sit 11th in Serie A with 45 points from 32 games.

Balotelli and El Shaarawy to stay, Kaka to go – how Milan should clear out their squad this summer

April 13th, 2014

The Rossoneri have a long off-season of upheaval ahead, with many players needing to be offloaded ahead of moves for new faces as the club look to get back on the right track

ANALYSIS
By Kris Voakes | International Football Correspondent

It has been a fair old rollercoaster of a season at AC Milan. Having only qualified for the Champions League with a late, late double at Siena on the final day of 2012-13, they failed to capitalise on their good fortune and found 2013-14 an even tougher proposition.

The sacking of Massimiliano Allegri came after a horrific run in the opening half of the campaign, while things have been rather topsy-turvy since Clarence Seedorf took the reins at Milanello. There has also been disappointment in the Champions League and Coppa Italia to overcome.

With no hope of a return to the top table of Europe and a race against time to squeeze into the Europa League, the Rossoneri know they will have to bounce back strong next term but have little extra capital to spend on the market as they look to strengthen an ailing first-team squad.

Funds need to be recouped in the market and quality needs to be injected, with a leading Curva Sud ultra claiming to Diretta Stadio: “Seedorf told us a week after arriving that he doesn’t want three quarters of the current Milan players in the squad.”

But who should stay and who should go? Goal looks at the current first-team squad and shorts wheat from the chaff…

Much has been said about the possibility of Mario Balotelli moving on in order for the club to recoup whatever they can for the star striker on the transfer market, but right now may not be the best time to sell. If the Italy front man has a great run at the World Cup then interest may rise, but for now it would make more sense for the club to keep their best player unless they receive a particularly attractive offer.

Fellow forward Stephan El Shaarawy has not had a particularly positive 18 months since his Azzurri colleague arrived at Milanello, but his return from injury will hopefully result in an opportunity for the two to gel better than has previously been evidenced. His excellent run at the start of 2012-13 showed that il Faraone has what it takes in the Milan jersey and so deserves further chances to show his undoubted talent.

Another youngster who has excelled in the first team is Mattia De Sciglio, who is worthy of a long run in one of the full-back slots with quality additions around him, while Ignazio Abate has shown over a period of three or four years that he can more than hold his own in the Rossoneri XI.

Club captain Riccardo Montolivo has not exactly been on fire since arriving from Fiorentina, but he has enough talent to at least keep pushing for a first-team slot, while Nigel De Jong has proven to be a key component of the Diavolo setup and should be allowed to continue in Seedorf’s side for 2014-15 at the very least.

Another midfielder who should be wearing red and black beyond the summer is Andrea Poli, who is growing further as a player at Milan and has the potential to be an Italy regular in years to come. Bryan Cristante deserves a long-term deal as he represents the future of the club’s midfield, while Riccardo Saponara should be given more game time in seasons to come. However, fellow engine-room star Adel Taarabt needs to be considered for next term only if it makes financial sense.

The QPR man has been a big hit since arriving on loan in January, but any deal to make his transfer permanent could be costly and Seedorf, Adriano Galliani and Barbara Berlusconi may decide that the money can be better spent elsewhere.

The same can be said of Adil Rami, who has also shown positive signs since his temporary switch from Valencia but could also come at the expense of a more appropriate signing in the longer term.

There are plenty of players in the squad who have either seen better days or have simply proven not to be of Milan quality, and the offloading of such men can only be for the club’s betterment.

Christian Abbiati has been hanging on gamely to the starting No.1 jersey over the past couple of years, but with his contract up in the summer it is time to say goodbye. Marco Amelia should go with him after proving incapable of ousting the more experienced incumbent and by extension not being of the quality needed to be Milan’s full-time goalkeeper.

The defence is stacked with players who need shipping out, starting with the man who secured qualification to the Champions League last May. Philippe Mexes may have come up with a couple of memorable goals in a Milan shirt – the acrobatic effort at Anderlecht being chief among them – but as a defender he has simply fallen short of the mark. The same is true of Cristian Zapata, while Daniele Bonera has long been short of the quality needed and should finally be bidden farewell this summer.

Kevin Constant has achieved a modicum of success in his time in a Milan shirt, particularly as a left wing-back under Allegri, but the clear truth is that he is not of the standard required and new stocks should be sought for the flanks ahead of next term. Cristian Zaccardo should never have been signed and has failed to make any impression at Milanello.

Across the midfield there are countless candidates to be shipped out. Sulley Muntari needs to refind his level at a lesser club, while the experiment of adding Michael Essien to the ranks was never going to pay off. Meanwhile, Urby Emanuelson has done his best to become a useful member of the first-team squad, but his salary could be spent better elsewhere. Valter Birsa is another player who has been peripheral in an underachieving Milan side, so cannot be expected to have a great impact in a winning Rossoneri outfit.

The club hierarchy have been attempting to offload Robinho for some time now, and it is to be hoped that they can find a buyer this summer. Vice-captain Kaka has had a positive impact since returning to Lombardy, but if Milan are to make the next step up they need an injection of something new, and the Brazilian is already thought to be lining up a move to the MLS.

Finally, the signing of Keisuke Honda has had a positive impact on the bank balance, but on the pitch his better performances have so far been on show only sporadically. Giampaolo Pazzini has had relative success in a Milan shirt, but is another who does not represent a step in the right direction. It is time for the club to decide whether they are serious about succeeding on the field of play.

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Balotelli could be crucial to Italy World Cup bid, says Pirlo

April 12th, 2014

The veteran midfielder believes every player will be a key part of the Azzurri’s campaign in Brazil but feels Balotelli could have a huge role this summer

Andrea Pirlo believes Italy’s bid to win the World Cup could depend on the form of AC Milan striker Mario Balotelli.

Balotelli was an integral part of Italy’s unbeaten qualifying campaign, scoring five goals, and the 23-year-old will be looked upon to help Italy through a tricky World Cup group featuring Uruguay, England and Costa Rica.

Experienced Juventus midfielder Pirlo feels the form of Balotelli could be crucial to Italy’s success, but warned that the whole squad will have to be at their best.

“We know it’s a difficult group, but I really like the atmosphere in Brazil,” he said in an interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport. 

“Do we depend on Mario Balotelli? Partly yes, but we are all important to the cause. Mario is old enough now, so he doesn’t need advice any more.

“He just needs to focus on finding his form in the summer, concentrate on the football and leave the rest alone.”

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