Inter Milan teenager Mario Balotelli insisted on Wednesday that he wants to be the best player in the world, just a day after a listless UEFA Champions League showing.
Balotelli was jeered by fans after the game for a poor showing in Inter's 3-1 semi-final, first leg victory over holders Barcelona on Tuesday. The 19-year-old forward played less than 20 minutes but showed no apparent desire to help out his under-pressure team-mates and was subjected to the fans' ire. He responded at the end of the game by flinging his jersey to the ground rather than celebrating with his team-mates.
But on Wednesday he said: "Psychologically I am as I was before, I'm well. I'm ready to become the best player in the world. I'm calm, since I was young that's always been my dream. Eighty per cent of my life is spent away from home under the spotlights but if people saw the other 20 per cent they'd understand that I also laugh, I'm a happy guy but you can't always laugh."
The day before some of his team-mates questioned his mentality. "What do I think of Balotelli, how much time have you got? You need to see what is in his head, he's like a child," said Dejan Stankovic. Captain Javier Zanetti also claimed the young star needs to grow up. "Mario needs to concentrate on doing what he can do on the pitch, he can't allow himself to behave in this way," he said about the shirt-throwing incident.
Even coach Jose Mourinho attacked his player for not trying hard enough during the game. "I'm disappointed with the way the fans treated Balotelli, I always want them to support him right to the end but I understand their reaction because they saw the same things I did," he said. "It's the second most important match in football (after the final) and everyone goes off dead but one player could have done more to help his team which was struggling, had lost Maicon and was under intense pressure from Barcelona.
"We all wanted more from him, then they whistled him and he did this with the shirt," the coach went on. "We'll play on Saturday and he'll play, no problem with that because we need to rest others. "He needs to show that he wants to be with us and has understood how to play football and that he should leave the pitch dead. Of course he's not going home dead because he didn't run much."