Mario Balotelli struggled to achieve at elite Premier League clubs because of romantic distractions, his agent Mino Raiola has said.
The Italian born agent told the Financial Times that he urged the 26-year-old, now playing for the modest French club Nice, to stay with Manchester City and that allowing him to leave for AC Milan was a mistake. But Raiola said that the player, who has a child by partner Raffaella Fico and was engaged to Fanny Neguesha, could also have succeeded if he had not kept falling in love.
“Balotelli has chosen, unconsciously or consciously, not to put football in the middle of his life. So there were always marginal phenomena that influenced his performance,” Raiola said. He also said that he shared some of the blame for Balotelli’s failure.
“Yes. A big mistake made in his career was to let him go from Manchester City to Milan, against my advice,” he observed. “I should have said, ‘You succeed with City, that’s it, period.’ If I’d done that, hard, he would have.”
Raiola said that the characteristic shared by those players he represents who have succeeded is drive, with Manchester United’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic being inspired by the example of one of Raiola’s early clients, the Czech Pavel Nedved. The agent says in the interview that he told the Swede when they began their working relationship that he must do as he said. When Ibrahimovic agreed he would, Raiola replied: “Sell your cars, your watches, and start training three times as hard. Because your stats are rubbish.”
Balotelli briefly flourished at City under manager Roberto Mancini, who declared he could potentially be one of the “best five players in the world.” But despite his claim to maintain only a small group of clients to enable a deep understanding of each, Raiola’s involvement in his development at the Etihad club was not impressive.
Raiola insisted that Balotelli should have a house in rural Alderley Edge and took command of negotiating with the seller. But after his claims that he would secure a knock-down price came to nothing, the striker ended up bored and lacking activity to focus his mind, out in rural Cheshire. Eventually City moved him to central Manchester. He then moved back to rural Mottram St Andrew in Cheshire – a property where he let fireworks off inside, causing extensive damage – and finally to Manchester’s central Hilton hotel.
Despite the fact that City were glad to be rid of him, Balotelli recently stated that they and Nice were the two clubs he had most enjoyed playing for.