Italy and Liverpool forward Mario Balotelli has admitted to performing below par in recent years but believes he still has what it takes to win the FIFA Footballer of the Year (Ballon d’Or) despite admitting he has been below par in recent years.
The Italian who signed for Liverpool two years ago in a £16million deal, but failed to make an impression after just four goals in 28 appearances returned to Anfield for pre-season on Saturday after spending a disappointing season on loan at former club AC Milan.
Speaking to Corriere della Sera, the former Manchester City man insisted that his poor form is merely a blip on the way to him becoming the best player in the world.
“In my view there weren’t enough [expectations put on me], as I can do so much more than what I said. But it takes time.
“On the scale of 0 to 10, I stopped at five, but I’ll get to 10 eventually. I want to get there. I will win the Ballon d’Or. I do realise that I’ve spent two years of my career when I could’ve been getting closer to 10 and instead stayed at five.
“I know, the Ballon d’Or might seem laughable and I might not have done everything to be the best, but the important thing is I realized it’s not too late.”
After a second bleak campaign in front of goal, Italy head coach Antonio Conte left the striker out of his Euro 2016 squad and Balotelli admitted his career could be suffering for his relaxed approach to football in his early years.
“I don’t want to reach the end of my career with the regret of not doing everything I can to be the best,” he said.
“Up until two years ago I made do with what I had. I did well, knew I could play, so I was happy. It wasn’t in my mind to improve, as I thought that was enough.
“Over the last two years I started working seriously, yet the results did not arrive. Maybe I am paying the price for the previous 23 years.
“I am relaxed, though, as I am aware that in the last two years things have changed completely.”
Balotelli returned to training at Melwood alongside Mamadou Sakho, Lazar Markovic and Luis Alberto as well as the other players not away on international duty including youngster Sergi Canos.
Coach Andreas Kornmayer led Saturday’s session, which focused primarily on fitness testing.