Mario: I have grown up... but I'm NOT getting married
Published 09:18 06/03/12 By David McDonnell
Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli insists he has changed his ways and grown up - despite his latest brush with controversy.
The maverick Manchester City striker incurred the wrath of boss Roberto Mancini after he was pictured emerging from a strip club in Liverpool in the early hours of last Friday.
Balotelli broke a club curfew by being out within 48 hours before City’s match with Bolton and will be hit with a fine of two weeks’ wages - around £220,000 - for his indiscretion.
“I did not do anything wrong at the strip club, even though I was wrong to go there two days before a game.”
Mancini suggested his errant forward should settle down and marry long-term girlfriend Raffaella Fico to curb his wayward ways.
But Balotelli said there was no chance of him tying the knot - just yet. He said: “Do I think I should marry? For me it is not soon.
“When you find the right person, it may be the time. Raffaella is the best thing that ever happened to me.
“She gives me peace of mind and understands me when I make a mess. We have spoken about marriage a few times but that doesn't mean that we will do it tomorrow.
"Once her work commitments allow her, she comes to Manchester. She is happy with me and I will follow her and play wherever.
“How did she take my evening at the strip club? Well, I would have got angry if she went to a male strippers’ club with her friends.”
The costly strip club visit came in the same week Balotelli was dropped from the Italy squad by boss Cesare Prandelli, who cited the forward’s lack of discipline and unreliability for his omission.
Balotelli has missed eight games through suspension this season, as well as becoming embroiled in a host of off-field controversies, which have fuelled the perception of him as a loose cannon.
But Balotelli, 21, said he has worked hard to become more responsible both on and off the pitch this season, and claimed he is treated unfairly because his reputation goes before him.
“This year I have already scored 14 goals and two penalties, and the intensity and effort I put into training this year are not comparable to last season,” said Balotelli.
“I have grown up, I have understood certain things.”
And Balotelli also revealed his disappointment at missing out on the Italy squad for last week’s friendly against the United States.
Prandelli did not select him because Balotelli was serving a four-match ban after kicking out at Tottenham's Scott Parker on January 22.
“The exclusion from the national team? I was very disappointed," said the striker.
“I often say in the locker room: Barcelona? Real Madrid? For me the most fascinating shirt is that of my national team, for the feeling that I want to represent Italy.
“I’m sorry to have lost a friendly match in Genoa. There is a code of ethics and I accept it, although I don’t think I deserved it, I had done nothing wrong.
“But to clear up the misunderstanding, I sent a text message to Prandelli. I assured him that I feel calm and I’m training well. Then I said thank you once again, because he always had confidence in me.”
Balotelli insists he did not intentionally stamp on Parker.
He said: "Perhaps when you slow down the image, it might appear so but I didn't touch him.
"I didn't do anything wrong so I didn't have to justify myself."
Balotelli believes City, who currently hold a two-point lead over Manchester United, have what it takes to keep their local rivals at bay and close out the title race.
He added: “We are a big group with quality at Manchester City and If we remain united as a group until the end, then United will be left behind us. They are not to be feared.”