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Balotelli Attributes Rising Popularity to Italy

Mario Balotelli, who scored a fantastic equalizer for Italy against Brazil in a friendly last week, says he owes his surging popularity in Italy to the national team. ''After Euro 2012 I noted that my popularity increased,” the 22-year-old said on Sunday ahead of Italy’s World Cup qualifier against Malta. “Thanks to the Italy squad, now fans of other clubs are starting to like me too. I can see from the way they act around me. The Nazionale has something special, something more. I can't explain it, it's above all else.''

Balotelli’s stunning solo goal against in Italy’s 2-2 draw with Brazil last Friday marked the striker’s eighth goal in eight games for club and country since he moved from Manchester City to AC Milan at the end of January.

''I've never had a big head,'' Balotelli continued. ''I do not consider myself to be the best in the world, nor the worst. I am me. I have been changing for a while, it's just that before you couldn't see the improvements. I've matured, I'm growing. I'm not 17 anymore, with experience you grow.''

The former Inter Milan striker said he had no regrets in life apart from throwing his Inter jersey on the ground after being substituted from a UEFA Champions League game against Barcelona in April 2010. 

Read the whole story at Associated Press »

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