Teammate says Balotelli needs to 'grow up'

Italy's soccer player Mario Balotelli signs autographs at the end of a training session during the...

Italy's soccer player Mario Balotelli signs autographs at the end of a training session during the Euro 2012 in Krakow June 20, 2012. (Tony Gentile/REUTERS)

Mike Zeisberger, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:20 PM ET

DONETSK, UKRAINE - The often-sulking, extremely talented, always enigmatic Mario Balotelli has been told that he "needs to grow up."

Not by frustrated Italian fans, who are tired of watching the gifted striker run hot-and-cold in the time it takes to boot a soccer ball.

Not by opponents, who feel his at-times "me-first" act makes a sham of the game.

No, the person chirping Balotelli to man up is, in fact, one of his own teammates.

According to well-respected veteran Daniele De Rossi, Balotelli, 21, must stop shenanigans like the stunt he pulled after scoring against Ireland in a 2-0 victory. Instead of merely celebrating, Balotelli opted to acknowledge his feat by yelling at Italian manager Cesare Prandelli for making him start on the bench.

"We've talked a lot about Balotelli," De Rossi said. "He's a great player, so if he wants to grow, he has to know how to react to this situation,

"He has to accept the coach's decisions. But he's at the age now where he should start to take responsibility to make sure he's treated like the others.

"At Mario's age, I went to a World Cup (in 2006) and elbowed (Brian McBride) -- an incident that made me grow up. He's becoming a man now."

But will he act like one?

"There is so much talk of 'scandal' around him because he's so good," De Rossi said. "But what counts is scoring goals.

"He commits some mistakes out on the pitch but it's his responsibility to cut them out and play a great game. He has the quality to do that.

"We are here to win Euro 2012, so everybody has to take his own responsibility to make sure that happens."

Of course, those on the English squad are going to do everything in their power to make sure it doesn't, including goading Balotelli relentlessly until he hopefully snaps.

When Italy takes on England in arguably the most glamourous of the four quarterfinals Sunday at Kiev's Olympic Stadium, Balotelli will look across the pitch and see several of his Manchester City teammates decked out in the jersey of the Three Lions. One of those is English midfielder James Milner, who has seen first-hand what it takes to get the Italian striker rattled.

"We might give Mario a bit of banter," Milner wryly told reporters, referring to the Man City players on the English squad.

"There are two Marios," Milner added. "There is one who sometimes turns up in training and is a bit cold and he is not too interested. The other times he really wants it and he is a special talent. He is a top player and we know that but the lads (on the English defence) have been brilliant at the back.

"I'm sure they will continue to do that and hopefully we will cause them a few problems the other way."

And, in the process, hopefully cause Mount Balotelli to blow its top.

mike.zeisberger@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/zeisberger


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