Tuesday March 26 2013
Montolivo: 'Balotelli's a star'

Riccardo Montolivo praised Mario Balotelli’s form, thanked Gigi Buffon and explained why Milan and Juventus dominate the Azzurri.

Balotelli converted a penalty and scored a second for the 2-0 World Cup qualifying victory in Malta.

“We tried to keep going through the middle and that was a mistake, as they were there waiting for us. Malta were clammed up and it was tough to find spaces.

“Luckily we had that superstar in attack and he sorted it out for us,” said Balotelli’s teammate at club and country.

“I think Mario has become fully aware of his abilities and has learned not to fall into the trap of provocation. He has had a remarkable impact on Milan too and I hope he won’t stop.

“He is now playing all over the field and helping out the team. Against Brazil too, he worked for the side and held up the ball, so he is a reference point for us now.

“Balotelli is a centre-forward and is therefore the leading point of the attack. We can even give him the ball badly, as he is so physically strong that he can hold off defenders and find space. Right now, he is a complete player.”

Stephan El Shaarawy seems to have lost his scoring touch since Balotelli’s arrival, but Montolivo feels that is only natural.

“I think Stephan has had a great season so far. It was only normal he couldn’t continue at that tempo, just as it’s probable Mario will have to slow down eventually. He’s probably paying the price on a physical level right now, as he works very hard for the team and sacrifices himself.

“Stephan prefers to play wide left in a trident because that is his role at Milan, but he can work on it and it’s important for Italy to have different options that can change even during a game.”

Montolivo made a mistake in midfield and that error sparked a penalty for Malta, but Gigi Buffon saved from Mifsud.

“Buffon really saved us – and me – there with a miracle.”

Tonight’s starting XI in Malta had six Juventus players and five from Milan.

“It means these two teams focus on home-grown talent, so that is a good sign for Serie A and the Nazionale,” concluded Montolivo.

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