MILAN (Reuters) – Mario Balotelli was only on the pitch for half an hour in Sunday’s derby but his performance on his second debut for AC Milan was enough to suggest that he can turn over a new leaf following his unhappy spell at Liverpool.
His burly presence immediately unsettled the Inter Milan defence as he cajoled his team mates, provoked his opponents and twice came close to equalising from long-range.
Milan chief executive Adriano Galliani has praised Balotelli’s dedication in training and, although supporters may feel they have heard it before, the maverick forward looked sharper than at any point during his season with Liverpool.
Within minutes of coming on in Milan’s 1-0 defeat, he provoked combustible Inter midfielder Felipe Melo into picking up the yellow card that the Brazilian had been threatening to receive all evening.
Shortly after that, “Supermario” thumped the foot of the post with a long range shot, then produced a booming free kick which forced Samir Handanovic to make a superb save.
“The Mario Balotelli we saw tonight is the one we want to see every match,” said team mate Riccardo Montolivo.
“He is training well. Let’s give him time and then come Christmas we will see how he is getting on and how much he has changed.”
Balotelli had a relatively successful and uneventful first spell in Milan, scoring 26 goals in 43 Serie A appearances over the course of one-and-a-half seasons which ended just over one year ago.
There were still some misdemeanours, however.
He lost his temper in front of the cameras after his performance in a 2-0 defeat at AS Roma was criticised by Italian television pundits, telling his interviewers that they did not understand football and throwing his microphone down.
He was also booked for making a vulgar gesture at Cagliari supporters, served two three-match bans and was caught smoking in the toilet of a train by a ticket collector.
This time, Galliani has ordered a good conduct clause to be inserted into Balotelli’s contract.
Balotelli must not damage the image of the club and his Twitter, Facebook and Instagram posts will be closely monitored.
He will be banned from extravagant haircuts and clothing, from smoking and from visiting night clubs and must turn up on time for training, while his drinking will also be restricted.
“He definitely did well after he came on,” said coach Sinisa Mihajlovic. “He is training well and will surely give us a big hand. He knows what he has to do, he has to continue working and now is not the time to judge him.”
(Writing by Brian Homewood in Berne)