PSG just another game for returning Balotelli

The Italy international is placing no extra significance on Nice’s trip to face the defending Ligue 1 champions this weekend

Nice should treat this weekend’s top of the table clash against Paris Saint-Germain no differently to any other Ligue 1 game, says Mario Balotelli.

The Italian striker returned to training on Tuesday after being sidelined for three weeks with a calf injury, and will be in contention to play the defending champions on Sunday.

WATCH: Balotelli keepie-ups at home

Prior to his injury Balotelli scored six goals in as many league starts as Nice set their stall out as this season’s surprise package, a tag they have maintained in the 26-year-old’s absence.

One defeat all season in the league sees Lucien Favre’s side top of the table after 16 games, with a three-point cushion over Monaco in second place, while PSG are a further one point back in third.

. @FinallyMario tout sourire face aux médias chinois #Club pic.twitter.com/juSEfCYWvD

— OGC Nice (@ogcnice) December 6, 2016

Despite this weekend’s clash providing an opportunity for Nice to extend their advantage over Unai Emery’s men to seven points, Balotelli will not be treating the game in the capital any differently.

“Paris Saint-Germain, Toulouse, Lyon… for me, it’s not the name that counts,” he is quoted as saying by the official Nice website.

Balotelli’s bizarre £1m bonus

“We should carry ourselves the same way every weekend. 

“I don’t think of things in terms of big matches or small matches. I just want to win every one.

“I’m fit. It [playing on Sunday] is up to the manager, of course.”

Super Mario’s World: Balotelli sparks Napoli rumours & plays destruction derby keepy-ups

As the striker prepares to make his return to action against Paris Saint-Germain next week, he has been in characteristically colourful form off the field

It’s been another successful week for Nice, who re-established a three-point advantage over Monaco at the summit of the Ligue 1 standings as Paris Saint-Germain slipped to a shock 3-0 defeat to Montpellier on Saturday.

Injury prevented Mario Balotelli from featuring in a 1-0 victory over Guingamp or in Sunday’s crushing 3-0 home win over Toulouse, yet the forward has again hit the news, particularly in Italy.

The striker continues to be a major talking point back home, with more support this week for his recall to the Italy national team, not to mention suggestions that he might fancy a move back to Serie A with Napoli.

Ever-popular Gianfranco Zola has tipped the 26-year-old to find himself back with the Azzurri for the first time since 2014 following a strong run of form in France.

“It seems to me that he is working very well and I wish that he can maintain and sustain that level of performance for much longer,” the ex-Chelsea attacker told Omnisport. “If he does that I’m sure it will only be a matter of time before he is back in the national team.

“With Balo it has never been a matter of his ability but it has been a matter of how well he can handle himself. But I’m delighted that he is finding the balance that allows his qualities to come through.”

Meanwhile, the forward’s Twitter admiration of Napoli – and in particular the early goal that Piotr Zielinski scored against Inter – has sparked speculation that he might fancy a transfer to Naples.

Napoli wow che gol

— Mario Balotelli (@FinallyMario) December 2, 2016

Ma i giocatori del napoli ? Maaaammaaaa mia

— Mario Balotelli (@FinallyMario) December 2, 2016

“Napoli, wow that goal!” he tweeted as the Pole scored inside the first couple of minutes, before adding: “The Napoli players! Maaaammaaaa mia.”

Loving the scent of a transfer story, the Italian media were swift to ask Napoli head coach Maurizio Sarri about a potential move, and he certainly did not close the door to a deal. 

“I do not deal with the transfer market, but if he likes I can forward him [director of sport Cristiano] Giuntoli’s number,” Sarri told Rai Sport

 

Playing around the house @enock17

A video posted by Mario Balotelli (@mb459) on

While all this was going on, Balo was threatening to destroy his own home with some destruction derby keepy-ups, proving at least that playing football is considerably less dangerous than setting off fireworks in the bathroom.

And a day later he was showing off his French once more on Instagram, wondering as two colleagues chatted: “But I don’t understand why it’s got to be like that. I’m very intelligent.”

 

Pourquoi?

A video posted by Mario Balotelli (@mb459) on

Sunday brought a couple more interesting stories, including a report from the Sunday Times that Liverpool were wary of the player’s bad-boy reputation and inserted a clause into his deal at Anfield that he would earn a £1 million bonus for good behaviour.

“If during each season of the term of this contract the player is not dismissed from the field of play on three or more occasions for violent conduct, spitting at an opponent or any other person, for using offensive, insulting or abusive language and/or gestures and/or for dissent by word or action … then on the 30th June at the end of each season he shall receive a bonus payment of £1m,” the contract is said to have read.  

Meanwhile, AC Milan president Silvio Berlusconi elected to compare Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi to the striker. “Renzi is like Balotelli. He could be the best, he has quality and he’s brilliant but he’s a promise that will never be realised,” he said earlier in the week.

Presidente Berlusconi.. perché metti il mio nome anche nella politica? Ti manco per caso? nel cuore sempre

— Mario Balotelli (@FinallyMario) December 4, 2016

The Rossanero sent back a cheeky tweet to end his week, stating: “President Berlusconi, why are you mentioning me also in the political debate? Are you missing me? AC Milan always in my heart.”

Next week Balotelli is expected back on the field, with next Sunday’s big game against PSG earmarked for his return.

Balotelli's bizarre £1m Liverpool bonus

The Italy striker has had a tough time keeping his temper in check throughout his career, prompting the Reds to insist on an interesting clause in his contract

‘Three strikes and you’re out’, they say, and while that is a promise one can imagine troubled striker Mario Balotelli has heard a lot throughout his career, it seems Liverpool even had it written it into his contract.

Gerrard closing in on Liverpool return

However, it was not a threat of expulsion that Balotelli was threatened with when he agreed to the clause, but the forfeit of a £1 million bonus.

According to The Sunday Times, Balotelli’s Liverpool contract states that he would receive such a bonus if he behaves himself on the field – not spitting at anyone or being offensive, but he gets two free goes at it each year just in case.

The newspaper reports that the deal says: “If during each season of the term of this contract the player is not dismissed from the field of play on three or more occasions for violent conduct, spitting at an opponent or any other person, for using offensive, insulting or abusive language and/or gestures and/or for dissent by word or action . . . then on the 30th June at the end of each season he shall receive a bonus payment of £1m.”

With a salary apparently totalling £85,000 per week plus £25,000 for each of his first five goals in the Premier League or in European competition, which then becomes £50,000 extra per goal, it seems Liverpool had belief in Balotelli.

However, the former Manchester City and Inter forward managed to score just one in each of those, making just 24 appearances in all competitions. He received a few yellow cards, but was never sent off.

Balotelli spent the following season on loan at AC Milan, but was unable to make anything of his career at Liverpool and opted to join Nice for the current campaign on a free transfer.

‘Liverpool can win the Premier League’

Meanwhile, the newspaper also points out the contracts of Rafael van der Vaart upon his move to Betis, which stipulated that, as long as red – the colour of arch rivals Sevilla – was not evident, he would be allowed to wear whatever sports shoes he wished.

Daniel Agger, meanwhile, apparently agreed with Brondby in 2014 that he would be given an advert at the side of the pitch for all home games.

VIDEO: Balotelli's living room keepie-uppies

The Italian striker has been nursing an injury picked up in training, but looks to be ready for action again if his efforts at home are anything to go by


EXTRA TIME


Mario Balotelli recently picked up an injury in shooting practice, so you could forgive Nice for wanting to wrap him up in cotton wool.

The Italian striker has rediscovered his spark since completing a summer switch to France, with the struggles of his recent past quickly forgotten.

AC Milan and Liverpool failed to bring consistent displays out of the enigmatic frontman, but he is loving life in Ligue 1.

Shooting practice breaks Balotelli

He is, however, a big miss for Nice at present as he nurses his way back from an unfortunate knock.

They will want him back as soon as possible, but are expected to tackle Toulouse on Sunday without the services of a key man.

Balotelli is, however, fast closing in on a return to full fitness, with the 26-year-old taking the time to work on his touch with a few keepie-uppies in his living room.

 

Playing around the house @enock17

A video posted by Mario Balotelli (@mb459) on

Nice officials are likely to have watched the video above through their fingers, with Balotelli opting to showboat on a rug that slips across a shiny floor.

He successfully completes his routine, though, and is a step closer to being welcomed back to competitive action.

‘Balotelli on brink of Italy call’

Nice will be hoping to return to the top of the Ligue 1 standings without the ex-Manchester City frontman on Sunday, with Paris Saint-Germain surprisingly dropping points against Montpellier.

Monaco have moved to the summit, but only on goal difference, and a point against Toulouse will be enough to lift Lucien Favre’s side back up the standings.

'He could play for any team' – Sarri talks up Balotelli to Napoli

The Nice star has been linked to the Serie A giants after being a notable observer during Friday’s 3-0 win over Inter, and the Partenopei’s boss has not ruled anything out

Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri has opened the door for a move for Mario Balotelli, insisting the forward would be a welcome addition at the club.

Salah is the most significant derby absence of the weekend

Nice star Balotelli was a notable observer during Napoli’s 3-0 win over his former club Inter on Friday, tweeting his praise for the victors on Twitter.

Balotelli, who also featured for AC Milan, indicated his awe at Piotr Zielinski’s opening goal before praising the entire team.

Napoli wow che gol

— Mario Balotelli (@FinallyMario) December 2, 2016

Ma i giocatori del napoli ? Maaaammaaaa mia

— Mario Balotelli (@FinallyMario) December 2, 2016

The 26-year-old’s social media activity sparked transfer speculation post-match and when asked about Balotelli’s comments, Sarri told Sky Sport Italia: “It depends on him. It’s very nice living in Nice, but then it’s lovely in Naples too.

“Mario is a player with the right characteristics for any team. When he doesn’t do well, it’s his fault.”

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Balotelli has starred in his debut season in Ligue 1, scoring seven goals in nine appearances for Nice.

Napoli are seeking attacking reinforcements after selling Gonzalo Higuain to Juventus and then seeing his replacement Arkadiusz Milik suffer a long-term injury.

And while hedging talk of a move, Sarri jokingly said the club would be open to working out a move for the enigmatic former Italy striker.

“I do not deal with the transfer market, but if he likes I can forward him [director of sport Cristiano] Giuntoli’s number,” the trainer added via Rai Sport.