Saturday February 23 2013
Matrix: 'Balotelli is the best'

Marco Materazzi praises good friend Mario Balotelli, reveals Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s row with Jose Mourinho and why Milan could win the Champions League.

All eyes will be on Super Mario for tomorrow night’s Derby della Madonnina, as the striker takes on his former Inter teammates.

Balo caused numerous problems in the Nerazzurri locker room and Materazzi famously pinned him to the wall after he threw the jersey to the ground, but the two remain firm friends.

“My friend Mario has always been a Milanista, so it’s no surprise he is there now. Milan was his dream,” Matrix told La Repubblica newspaper.

“Do you know how many times I had to chop up his Rossoneri socks in the locker room? His Mum bought them for him and he would wear them in training, so I’d sneakily cut holes in. He laughed like crazy.

“We send each other hundreds of text messages per day, so yes, we’re still good friends. I want to say I am really proud of him. Of course I won’t stop our friendship just because he went to Milan.

“Do I need to give him advice on how to behave? Look, Mario never hurt anyone, he’s a really good person. He simply likes enjoying himself and is still a big kid.

“The other night at San Siro I saw him dancing in the stands with Robinho. That is Mario, he lives life like someone who grew up in the streets and I love him for it. He has fun in a healthy way, not like those who act up, get drunk or ruin themselves physically.”

Balotelli left Inter for Manchester City in August 2010 after lifting the Treble with Mourinho and Materazzi.

“Milan are the favourites in the Derby with Mario and that is fine for us Interisti,” continued Materazzi.

“I’ve never seen such a talented player at 17, when he made his debut with us. He is ruthless in front of goal and we won the 2008 Scudetto thanks to him. I will always thank him, as an Interista, because he took us to trophies.

“With their victory over Barcelona, Milan definitively became aware of their strength. They taught Barça a football lesson with grit, hard work and the collective. They didn’t have the champions we did when we eliminated Barcelona in 2010.

“However, don’t give Inter up for dead yet. My former teammates have seven lives, it is in their DNA. I expect a passionate welcome for Mario. As long as it doesn’t get dragged down into racism, everything is fair.”

Materazzi also remains very close to Mourinho and the Real Madrid manager is rumoured to be heading for PSG.

“If that happens, I don’t know what will become of Ibrahimovic. They did not leave each other on good terms.

“Ibra dumped us during a pre-season training camp in Los Angeles to join Barcelona. He told Cristian Chivu: ‘You won’t even win the Scudetto without me.’ Mourinho confronted him and said: ‘I want you to know that we’ll win everything without you.’ That was exactly what happened.

“In fact, I now have a concern that Milan will win the Champions League. It already happened at Barcelona and Inter, as when Ibra leaves, that team then lifts the trophy...”

Materazzi now runs a sportswear store in Milan, lives in Perugia and is planning a return to football.

“I’m studying to be a Coach and if all goes well next summer I’ll start spreading trouble... It feels a bit like we’re reliving the 2006 World Cup, as in my class are Pippo Inzaghi, Fabio Cannavaro, Fabio Grosso, Massimo Oddo and Gianluca Zambrotta.

“Could I be Coach of Inter one day? The club remains in my heart and our paths could cross again, but it’s not mandatory. Whenever I return there to say hello, I get a King’s welcome, so I must’ve left some good memories.”

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