Bonucci hails Balotelli’s newfound maturity

Mario Balotelli

Mercurial Nice striker Mario Balotelli has shown signs of maturity recently, according to proud Italy captain Leonardo Bonucci.

The Azzurri have congregated ahead of three international friendlies, against Saudi Arabia, France, and Netherlands. Bonucci spoke to reporters in the build-up to the games, praising Balotelli and expressing his pride as Italy captain.

“Being captain of the national team is definitely something you can feel,” Bonucci told reporters ahead of the clash with Saudi Arabia in St Gallen on Monday.

“There’s a strong sense of responsibility, but what surpasses everything is pride. I want to be a true example for the rest of lads, also Mario who among other things I’ve found changed, matured.”

Balotelli has impressed since joining French club Nice in 2016. He has scored 43 goals in only 66 appearances for the Ligue 1 outfit across all competitions.

The former Manchester City and Liverpool striker spoke to the press about being back in the national team without veterans Gianluigi Buffon and Daniele De Rossi. He said: “It’s strange not to find [Daniele] De Rossi and [Gigi] Buffon here, team-mates and above all friends for a lifetime. Sooner or later though we all have to say ‘enough’.

“I’ve felt it a bit, not laughing at Coverciano with Gigi and Daniele, but I learned a lot from the great champions of the recent past and I hope I can pass on the values I got from them.”