Manchester United striker Robin van Persie says recently departed Manchester City rival Mario Balotelli is a 'nice guy' and insists the public perception of the Italian is completely wrong.
Balotelli was painted as a troublesome figure both on and off the pitch during his time with Manchester City, with the 22-year-old featuring more regularly on the front pages of tabloids than the back.
Among other things, the Italy international attracted headlines for setting fire to his own bathroom after an impromptu indoor fireworks display went awry, while Balotelli was regularly embroiled in training ground spats with his Manchester City teammates.
Finally growing frustrated with his antics, Manchester City sold Balotelli to AC Milan in the closing days of the transfer window, bringing to an end a tumultuous two-and-a-half year spell at the Etihad Stadium.
Van Persie, however, regards Balotelli highly both as a man and a professional, and believes the departure of the young striker will be a loss to the Premier League.
"And he really is a nice guy as well. We spoke to each other every now and then when he still played at Manchester City.
"You have people who initially look like nice guys, but turn out to be different in the end. Balotelli is the exact opposite. He might not look like a nice lad, but he definitely is."
Van Persie may be unable to face Balotelli at Old Trafford at any point in the near future, but the Manchester United hotshot will have the opportunity to play against him once again on Wednesday as the Netherlands host Italy in a friendly.