MILAN – Mario Balotelli hit a long-distance rocket to secure a late 1-0 win for Milan on Friday then warned the media to respect his private life if they want to see him perform well at the World Cup this summer.
Balotelli hit the headlines last week when he confirmed paternity of his one-year-old daughter Pia to former girlfriend Raffaella Fico following the results of a DNA test.
Days after his annoncement on Twitter, however, doubts about the 23-year-old’s emotional state were raised when he broke down in tears after being substituted during Milan’s 3-1 defeat at Napoli.
Speculation suggested Balotelli’s failure to score and dedicate a goal to his new-found daughter, who lives in Napoli with mother Fico, had led to his teary performance on the Milan bench.
On Friday Balotelli made partial amends with a stunning strike from over 30 metres that many pundits have called the goal of the season so far.
But he kept the celebrations low key, and later warned that further media intrusion into his private life could see him flop for Italy at this summer’s World Cup in Brazil.
“People are looking far too much into my private life, I would advise them not to because I’m the Italy striker and they should leave me alone to live my life as I want so I can perform to my best on the pitch,” said Balotelli.
“On the pitch I’m relaxed, just as I was against Napoli although it wasn’t our day. Even tonight wasn’t a great game for us, but I settled it with a goal.”
Balotelli’s strike, amid what was a poor display by the struggling Serie A giants, had club CEO Adriano Galliani purring.
“It’s the goal of the year,” said Galliani.
The win over Bologna also saved the blushes of coach Clarence Seedorf, who later called for fairer treatment for the Italy star.
“Leave Balotelli in peace a little, he’s a national team star and people should be right behind him,” said the 37-year-old Dutchman.
“I’m not worried about how he’s developing, he will become one of the world’s best players but that can only happen in an environment in which he feels he feels supported.
“Often, people only focus on his negative aspects and never on his increasingly-good behaviour.”
Balotelli joined the club last year after a troubled four-year spell at Manchester City in which he hit the newspaper headlines for antics both on and off the pitch.
He appears to have settled into a quieter lifestyle with fiancee Fanny Neguesha, although despite scoring 10 league goals Balotelli has not played anywhere near his potential this campaign.
Balotelli admitted he could be doing more for Milan’s cause: “The coach has faith in me. I’m someone who should be pushing the team forward, and so it’s up to me to also score goals like these.”(AFP)