Balotelli de­fends Nice move

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Sport -

WAY­WARD Ital­ian striker Mario Balotelli has in­sisted that French club Nice have not taken a risk in sign­ing him from Liver­pool.

“The ca­reer that I have had, it’s dif­fer­ent to what has been writ­ten in the Press,” Balotelli said at a Press con­fer­ence yes­ter­day as he and fel­low new sign­ing Younes Bel­handa, the French-born Moroccan in­ter­na­tional play­maker, were un­veiled.

“To me I don’t rep­re­sent a risk. I have had fit­ness prob­lems, but a risk? No!”

The 26-year-old signed a one-year deal at the Al­lianz Riviera af­ter be­ing al­lowed to leave An­field on a free trans­fer, but Nice are re­ported to be pay­ing their new re­cruit an an­nual salary of €4.5 mil­lion.

“We know the risk we are tak­ing, but it’s one I take with plea­sure,” said Nice pres­i­dent Jean-Pierre Ri­vere, whose club helped suc­cess­fully re­launch the ca­reer of France for­ward Hatem Ben Arfa last sea­son.

Ben Arfa re­turned to his home coun­try af­ter a dif­fi­cult time in Eng­land and ended last sea­son by be­ing nom­i­nated for France’s player of the year award.

He was re­called to the na­tional set-up and joined cham­pi­ons Paris Saint-Germain over the sum­mer.

Balotelli strug­gled on loan at for­mer club AC Mi­lan last sea­son hav­ing made lit­tle im­pact at Liver­pool in the pre­vi­ous cam­paign.

Dur­ing his Manch­ester City days he be­came bet­ter known for his off-field an­tics, and one jour­nal­ist asked Balotelli if Nice sup­port­ers should be wor­ried about the num­ber of night­clubs on the Cote d’Azur given the Ital­ian’s rep­u­ta­tion as some­thing of a party boy.

“I pre­fer not to hear that ques­tion,” replied the player, who in­sisted his de­ci­sion to join Nice was “purely sport­ing”.

“My pri­or­ity was to play. I spoke to the coach (Lu­cien Favre) and he re­ally wanted me. I hope that this year will be very good. That’s all!”

Balotelli could make his Nice de­but in the Mediter­ranean derby at home to Mar­seille on Sun­day, Septem­ber 11.

“He has enor­mous qual­i­ties. I have seen clips of his best mo­ments and it was im­pres­sive, but this is a longterm job,” said Swiss coach Favre.

“Ev­ery­thing will de­pend on how will­ing he is. His fit­ness is the ba­sis. Oth­er­wise, I have no doubts about his tech­ni­cal abil­ity.” — AFP

Mario Balotelli

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