Belfast Telegraph

Mario Balotelli plays down bad boy image as Manchester City prepare for Europa League

Manchester City's extraordinary activity in the transfer market shows no signs of abating.

On the day Mario Balotelli was officially unveiled to the media, England midfielder James Milner moved closer to sealing his protracted move from Aston Villa.

Stephen Ireland is due to go the other way while Wales striker Craig Bellamy has stepped down a division to join hometown team Cardiff on a season-long loan.

They may not be the last two out of the revolving door that is Eastlands as goalkeeper Shay Given could also be leaving.

Former Inter Milan striker Balotelli insisted City were always top of his wish-list.

“I am happy to be here at Manchester City because of the manager and the environment,” said the 20-year-old.

“I was sorry to leave my family and friends behind in Italy but not for professional reasons.”

Balotelli was frequently criticised by coach Jose Mourinho, when the Portuguese was in charge of Inter Milan, but the player said: “I am not a bad boy. I am just a normal guy.”

Boss Roberto Mancini added: “All of us were said to be bad boys when we are young. But I have worked with Mario before and he is a normal person.

“He is young player, only 20 years old, who can do a lot in the Premier League. He has all the qualities needed to become a fantastic player.”

Balotelli admitted he had been targeted by racists but does not expect the problem to continue in his new surroundings.

He said: “As far as I know there is no racism in English football. There were two or three incidents in Italy that were quite bad. It was very unfortunate and I hope it does not happen again.”

Balotelli could make a surprise debut against Timisoara in the Europa League tomorrow.

It was widely expected that the striker arrived too late to be included in the squad.

However UEFA confirmed that Balotelli still had a chance of playing in this play-off first leg match as one change can be made to the original list.

City, though, face a race against time as the 20-year-old's registration needs to approved by both the Football Association and UEFA before midnight.

He is the club's preferred choice even if the Milner move is sealed before the deadline.

UEFA article 18.14 states: “For the three qualifying rounds and the play-offs, one player on List A may be changed until 24.00 CET on the day before the relevant first-leg match, provided that the club's national association confirms in writing that the new player is eligible to play at domestic level at this time.”

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