Football

Mario Balotelli: Behind-the-scenes with Sports Illustrated

Balotelli is never far from the headlines. (©GettyImages)
Balotelli is never far from the headlines. (©GettyImages).

Yes, the time has come again. Here's your latest Mario Balotelli news, courtesy of his feature length interview in Sports Illustrated - click here for the full interview.

It's seems like he has mellowed down a lot since he left former club Manchester City to return 'home' with AC Milan.

In donning the cover of Sports Illustrated in one of its latest publications, Balotelli became only the second non-US pro soccer player to do so since 1994.

Here are a few things he had to say, most of which did not make it into the final magazine.

• On what he would have done if it were not for soccer:

"Probably I would study," Balotelli says. One expects him to come up with a course on science or business when he comes back with his true interests. "I would not stop with the Muay Thai. I know it's dangerous to kick and elbow, but maybe I would run forward with that, because I like it."

(Muay Thai, a combat sport from Thailand. Of course, Mario. We aren't shocked on hearing this after you tried picking fights with your ex-manager Roberto Mancini, ex-teammates, Alexander Kolorov, Jerome Boateng, Manchester United players and many more.)

• On what he thinks of the United States: 

"America is a great country. I've been in the south, in the center and in the north. I like it. Americans are very good people. There's just too much air-conditioning."

• On what he likes in North American pop culture:

"R&B, pop. My friend is Drake. I've met him four or five times now. I also like Kobe Bryant. I'm in touch with him sometimes. I would like to meet Will Smith and Denzel Washington. They're great actors."

• On the ways in which being in Milan is different from being in Manchester:

"I'm home. I'm 60 kilometers from my house [in Brescia, where he grew up]. I'm usually with my family. I'm relaxed. My friends, they can come. It's not like in Manchester. That wasn't my own. I couldn't tell my [Italian] friends to come because they were working. Just the fact that I'm home, it makes me happy. I'm calmed down. I grew up.

"Maybe I missed my family and friends too much in Manchester. Manchester City, the club and the fans, they were amazing. But I'm sorry, the city wasn't that nice. I was all the time at home, and I didn't enjoy it. It was raining all the time. I was a little bit upset."

• On the connection he feels with Ghana, the country where his birth parents were born:

"Inside me I'm Ghanaian, and I'm proud to be African. But of course I'm Italian. I was born in Italy. I've never been to Africa in my life, but I will go one day."

• On the teams he followed as a kid:

"I always wanted to play for AC Milan or Real Madrid. Real Madrid, of course, because when I was young the players that played there were the top players. I was looking at Real Madrid as the best of the best.

"And AC Milan, they also had good players when I was young, so I looked at AC Milan the same way as Real Madrid. I always said if I was going to go to one team in Italy, I wanted to play at AC Milan."

• On being named one of TIME magazine's 100 most influential people in the world:

"It was nice. I know in America there are people who love soccer, and there people that don't even know soccer. It was something to be known even over here. That's always good."

• On smiling a lot in person but not smiling on the field:

"When I was in Manchester, sometimes I was upset. But normally I always joke and smile. I'm a happy person."

• On José Mourinho, his manager at Inter:

"As a manager, like with training and motivation, I think he's the absolute number one. As a person I had some misunderstandings [with him], but I was OK. Even two days ago when we played against them [in New Jersey], I said hi and we talked a bit. He was nice."

• On Roberto Mancini, his manager at Man City and Inter:

"Mancini is a great manager as well. He's a great person, an amazing man. When I talk about Mancini, I can only say thanks for what he did for me."

• On Max Allegri, his manager at AC Milan:

"Ah, he's good. I like him. He's young, as well. He understands us. When we want to have fun, he's the first, but then when we have to be serious, he wants us to be serious."

On the chance of meeting LeBron (King) James, with my noting that Balotelli was wearing a trucker hat that said KING on it with a lion:

"No, for me the real king is Kobe [Bryant]. I like LeBron. He's an amazing sportsman and basketball player, but for me Kobe is on another level. When I saw Kobe in Brazil, I just wished for him to come back as quickly as possible from his injury. Otherwise I'm not watching the NBA anymore."

Check out Sports Illustrated's website, where their Balotelli interview features in full, by clicking here: sportsillustrated.cnn.com

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Topics:
Mario Balotelli
Football
AC Milan

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