‘I wish Neymar was playing’ – Balotelli wanted to face PSG ace

Mario Balotelli is disappointed he will not have the chance to go head-to-head with Neymar when Paris Saint-Germain host Nice in Ligue 1 on Friday.

Nice have endured a poor start to the Ligue 1 campaign and are aiming to break a run of three consecutive top-flight defeats at Parc des Princes.

Nice 33/1 to win EL with dabblebet

Unai Emery’s league leaders will be without Neymar after the Brazil international was sent off during last weekend’s heated 2-2 draw at Marseille.

Balotelli has been in impressive goalscoring form this term, with eight in 11 appearances across all competitions, and the enigmatic Italian striker is not giving up hope that his team-mates can spring a surprise.

“Of course it’s possible [to win at PSG],” he told Nice Martin . “It’s difficult but feasible.

“I wanted to play against Neymar, personally. I wish he were in the game.”

Balotelli’s form has led to calls in some quarters for him to earn an international recall for Italy’s World Cup play-off against Sweden next month.

A report by Gazzetta dello Sport suggested Italy boss Gian Piero Ventura is not ready to take the plunge and hand the 27-year-old his first action for the Azzurri since the 2014 World Cup and Balotelli is relaxed about the situation.

“If the national coach wants to call me up, I’m ready,” he added. “If he doesn’t want to call me up, I’ll always support the national team.”

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Are you watching, Italy? Super Mario Balotelli is back to his best

There was a time when Mario Balotelli’s ‘Super’ tag seemed almost ironic, but not anymore, with the forward doing his utmost to push for international recognition once again. 

The enigmatic attacker appeared beyond salvation after scoring just two league goals between 2014 and 2016: one in the English top flight for Liverpool, and another in Serie A, after Brendan Rodgers had sent him back to AC Milan on loan for a year.

Italy 20/1 to win 2018 World Cup

By the end of August 2016, the Reds were so fed up of the forward, they decided to cut their losses and allow the £16 million signing to move to Nice in what was tantamount to a free transfer.

However, on the south coast of France, Balotelli has slowly rebuilt his career and reputation, and while there have been hiccups along the way, he is now arguably back to his best.

This season alone, the 27-year-old attacker has netted eight times in 11 matches in all competitions – a figure not to be sniffed at in a team struggling for confidence

His scoring record has put him back on the radar of the Italian national team, for whom he has not played since he moved to Liverpool three years ago.

Mario Balotelli Nice stats PS

“If the coach wants to call me, then I am ready. If he doesn’t want to call me, then I’ll always cheer on the Nazionale,” Balotelli told Nice Matin.

“There’s a big international date coming and he’s only got one desire: to play in it,” team-mate Christophe Jallet recently told the press. “The best way for him to get there is to shine with us. If he has a great season, if he can help us go as high as possible, I think he’ll have his chance.”

With the Azzurri yet to secure a spot in the World Cup finals next summer – they face a play-off against Sweden in November to determine if they will go to Russia – and star striker Andrea Belotti currently injured, head coach Gian Piero Ventura is being constantly asked the question if Balotelli merits a recall.

While Ventura has thus far managed to stand firm in his refusal to select the ‘bad boy’ of Italian football with the mininum of fuss, it will become increasingly difficult for him to continue to overlook Balotelli if the striker keeps finding the net.

Against Lazio in the Europa League, Balotelli took the opportunity presented to him to remind the nation what he can do, scoring with a fine downward header early in the match before his side’s defence embarrassingly capitulated to allow the Serie A side a relatively straightforward victory. 

He has also managed goals against Monaco and Marseille, and should he find the net against Paris Saint-Germain when Nice meet them in Ligue 1 on Friday, he can lay claim to having struck against perhaps the three best sides in France so far this season. Certainly, there would be no question of him being a mere flat-track bully. 

 

Btw who said that I never celebrate? #issanissa

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Ventura continues to argue against the player’s personality, suggesting that he bears a burden that is not necessarily visible on the field. 

“The way of judging this is not whether Balotelli is scoring goals, the problems are elsewhere – the rest of Balotelli,” he warned before the last round of World Cup qualifiers.

“We need to consider the 360 degrees of Balotelli, but right now our priority is qualifying and then we will have a further four to five months to think about it. I can’t put the World Cup on the line right now – I need certainties.”

Unsurprisingly, such talk does not sit well with the striker. “What really irritates me is criticism on my personal life,” he said. “If it’s about football, I don’t mind, in the sense that if I play badly on Sunday, I talk to the coach on Monday about what I should’ve done better.”

Lucien Favre is the man charged with getting the best from Balotelli at Nice and he believes that the player – who recently became a father for the second time following the birth of his son Lion – is maturing both on and off the field. 

Mario Balotelli Nice

“He has really improved in his movement. He’s becoming more altruistic and effective,” he said. “He still has a lot of work to do, but we know what that is.

“He works hard in training, he presses when he has lost the ball. It’s a little step forward, but it’s an important one.”

But Balotelli remains Balotelli.

Asked how he would manage a player like himself, he said: “I would try to limit my compliments. Instead, try to break his balls, because I know when all seems calm, it’s a problem.”

There is always a fear that he will blow up when it is least expected of him and Ventura cannot be criticised for his reluctance to select a player who is perhaps more mercurial then any other forward of his generation. 

Simply scoring goals may not be enough for Mario – his behaviour has to be ‘Super’, as well.  

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NBA legends, Neymar sees red and a brand new Balotelli – Ligue 1 goes social

Paris Saint-Germain are no strangers to receiving guests, but this week they enjoyed the company of someone rather special as NBA legend Kobe Bryant paid them a visit.

Several member of the squad are huge basketball fans, but none more so than Neymar, who was delighted that the five-time NBA champion and 2008 MVP took some time to visit the Ligue 1 leaders.

Indeed, the striker, who took in Game 2 of the NBA finals last season, had few words when he posted on social media about the event, simply branding Kobe a “legend”.

 

Legend @kobebryant

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Kylian Mbappe offered a similar thought on his Instagram page.

 

Legend @kobebryant

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And Kobe showed off that he has lost none of his star qualities by making a shot from way down town during a gala event. It was a moment that left even Neymar, one of the greatest sportsmen today, stunned.

 

Legend @kobebryant

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On the field, meanwhile, it has been a mixed week for the Brazilian, who was on target in midweek as PSG defeated Anderlecht 4-0 in the Champions League.

 

He found the net again at the weekend in the Classique against Marseille but was later sent off in what proved a frustrating night for his side as they somehow salvaged a point to draw 2-2 thanks to a late Edinson Cavani free-kick.

 

Neymar, however, was impressed by his side’s fighting spirit, having underlined the importance of self-belief in an Instagram post earlier this week. “1% CHANCE… 99% FAITH. You don’t make it anywhere by chance. Always believe,” he said.

 

 

1% CHANCE… 99% FAITH You don’t make it anywhere by chance. Always believe. Thanks @beatsbydre My bro @money23green What’s your #1of1?

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Dani Alves missed the weekend’s match due to a slight injury issue, but he featured in midweek in Belgium and was caught before the match showing off some pretty silky skills.

 

 

#goodcrazypower

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He was also keen to show that he was supporting his team-mates, despite having stayed in Paris while they travelled to Marseille, where they were greeted with a red-hot atmosphere at Stade Velodrome.

 

 

“Allez PSG, allez mon frères” #goodcrazy #supportfrommyhome

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While PSG’s players have not taken to social media after Sunday’s setback, Alves is one of the figures they will rally around to lift them following the draw.

 

He is a natural leader and has a laidback approach to life, which he showed off in a photo that saw him posing next to Marquinhos and Neymar earlier this week.

 

“Don’t you see that life is hard for those who are soft, who hesitate or are distracted? We live in a world of excess but in reality what moves us is happiness, which is simplicity, the ability to live without lies and be true to yourself!” he commented.

 

 

A minha mente por aí sempre a vagar, para que eu vou correndo se caminhando eu posso chegar. A vida é dura pra quem é mole, vacilou, distraiu, passou e cê não viu? Vixeeee, te engoliu… de um trago ou de um gole, tudo bem você que escolhe. Eu escolhi junto aos meus sermos felizes, fazemos do menos, mais, tá no sangue vem de raizes. Vivemos em um mundo de superfluidades, mas na realidade, o que nos move é felicidade, é simplicidade, é a capacidade de conviver com mentiras e ser verdades! #GoodCrazy #agenteéissoaíemuitomais

A post shared by DanialvesD2 My Twitter (@danialves) on


 

Marseille, meanwhile, were keen to celebrate what they saw as a fine point against PSG, one that confirms their recently improved form and suggest they can challenge for a top-three finish in Ligue 1 this season.

 

Florian Thauvin, a former Newcastle player, is one of those leading the charge. “Proud of my team, our fans and the crazy Velodrome. You carried us,” he told his followers after finding the net on Sunday.

 

 
 

Fier de mon équipe, fier de notre public, de notre Vélodrome en folie ! Vous nous avez porté ! Merci pour tous vos messages ! #AllezLOM

A post shared by Florian Thauvin (@flotov) on


 

Meanwhile, there was bad news for Mario Balotelli’s Nice side as they were stunned 2-1 by Strasbourg at the weekend, though the striker, who missed the match, did have a better moment last Tuesday, when he showed off his new-born son, Lion, on Instagram for the first time.

 

 

Good night #Father&Son

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Balotelli will be back next Friday to meet Neymar et al at the Parc des Princes, which should prove a cracking game.


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Real life Super Mario Kart, Evra’s happy place and Mbappe still smiling – Ligue 1 goes social

It’s been an eventful international break for Paris Saint-Germain’s Brazilian players.

On the whole, there was joy as their national side finished off a fine World Cup qualifying campaign comfortably top of the South American pool, but Thiago Silva picked up an injury that prevented him from playing in Saturday’s 2-1 win over Dijon.

One man who has enjoyed his time with his country, however, is Neymar. He may not have scored in a draw against Bolivia or the 3-0 win over Chile, but he has been impressed with the manner in which the team is shaping up before Russia and took to Instagram to explain just how much it means to be part of the squad.

 

Feliz demais por ter alcançado nosso objetivo e muito mais feliz por fazer parte desse grupo… parabéns a todos que participaram dessa classificação!! #PartiuRussia

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“So happy to have achieved our goal and much happier to be part of this squad. Congratulations to all who played their part in this,” he said.

This was a sentiment echoed by club-mate Dani Alves, who has been part of the national squad for well over a decade and is still going strong at 34 years old. 

“Life teaches us that persistence in everything we do has its reward. Congratulations guys, and thank you to all who have never stopped believing in us… It will always be an honour and we will always strive to do our best to represent our country,” he said.

 

A vida nos ensina que a persistência em tudo que fazemos tem a sua recompensa. Parabéns rapaziada e obrigado a todos que nunca deixaram de acreditar em nós… cada vez que vestimos essa camisa creiam todos ou não, será sempre uma honra e Buscaremos fazer sempre o nosso melhor para representar como se deve o nosso país. #goodcrazymuitofeliz

A post shared by DanialvesD2 My Twitter (@danialves) on

He remained equally upbeat after PSG struggled past Dijon at the weekend.

With numerous injury problems, Unai Emery had to shuffle his pack, leading to Alves playing in a midfield role. His side struggled but were let out of jail by Thomas Meunier, whose rich run for club and country continued as he scored twice.

However, Dani Alves was eager to block out critics of the display and instead focus on the future. “The silence of intelligence lies in not listening to the noise of mediocrity,” he posted in typically philosophical style.

 

Para alcançar alguma coisa na vida, seja ela o que for, tens que ter comprometimento, tens que ter amor, tens que está disposto pagar o preço. O final é muito bom se a caminha valer a pena….. o silêncio da inteligência está em não escutar o barulho da mediocridade. #goodcrazy

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Kylian Mbappe was happy to make light of the performance, even after a frustrating afternoon personally, with goalkeeper Baptiste Reynet persistently foiling him.

“Hey PSG, let’s pretend you didn’t see the chances I missed,” he joked on social media.

 

?Victoire 2-1 contre Dijon? ? PS: Hey la #TeamPSG , on fera comme si on avait pas vu les occasions ratées ?

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??Neymar was another man to have a frustrating afternoon at Stade Gaston Gerrard, albeit after a hectic schedule of travelling.

During this, he took time to wish those in his homeland Happy Children’s Day, posting a picture of himself as a youth to mark the event.

 

Feliz dia das crianças

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Not all of Ligue 1’s stars were slugging away on international duty.

Despite a promising start to the season, Mario Balotelli continues to be frozen out by Italy, but at least that allowed him some time out to try his hand at some real life Super Mario Kart – with some hilarious results. He’s hinted that there’s more to come – we can only look forward to it.

 

Coming soon

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Patrice Evra, meanwhile, has probably been doing something a little more sedate. He revealed on Instagram his love of meditation and the effects that it has had on his life.

“Since 2014 I started meditation. It’s really helpful for yourself to see the world in different ways… keep the positive vibes like I always said I respect every religion, but first try to be the best human being you can, from there you will choose the religion that suits you the most – or maybe not any of them…”

 

Since 2014 I started #meditation it’s really helpful for yourself to see the world in different ways… keep the #positivevibes like I always said I #respect every religions but first try to be the best human being you can, from there you will choose the religion suit you the most or maybe not any of them…#world #religion #meditation #ilovethisgame #beapanda #lifestyle #peace #clarity

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The veteran defender offered his well wishes to England and Manchester United legend Bobby Charlton, who enjoyed his 80th birthday last week.

“When a legend call you LEGEND and telling me you are one of my favorite one what else..? I love this game,” he wrote.

 

When a #legend call you LEGEND and telling me you are one of my favorite one what else..?I love this game good luck tomorrow guys #bobbycharlton @manchesterunited #united #forevrared #ilovethisgame #manutd @manunitedzone #sirbobbycharlton

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Both Balotelli and Evra had frustrating Sundays, though.

The striker’s Nice side lost 2-0 to Montpellier, while Marseille had to settle for a 3-3 draw at Nice. With the Europa League to come on Thursday, both will seek for rapid redemption.

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