Wayward Italian striker Mario Balotelli has insisted that French club Nice have not taken a risk in signing him from Liverpool.
“The career that I have had, it’s different to what has been written in the press,” Balotelli said at a press conference on Friday as he and fellow new signing Younes Belhanda, the French-born Moroccan international playmaker, were unveiled.
“To me I don’t represent a risk. I have had fitness problems, but a risk? No!”
The 26-year-old signed a one-year deal at the Allianz Riviera after being allowed to leave Anfield on a free transfer, but Nice are reported to be paying their new recruit an annual salary of 4.5 million euros (3.8 million pounds, $5 million).
“We know the risk we are taking, but it’s one I take with pleasure,” said Nice president Jean-Pierre Rivere, whose club helped successfully re-launch the career of France forward Hatem Ben Arfa last season.
Ben Arfa returned to his home country after a difficult time in England and ended last season by being nominated for France’s player of the year award.
He was recalled to the national set-up and joined champions Paris Saint-Germain over the summer.
Balotelli struggled on loan at former club AC Milan last season having made little impact at Liverpool in the previous campaign.
During his Manchester City days he became better known for his off-field antics, and one journalist asked Balotelli if Nice supporters should be worried about the number of nightclubs on the Cote d’Azur given the Italian’s reputation as something of a party boy.
“I prefer not to hear that question,” replied the player, who insisted his decision to join Nice was “purely sporting”.
“My priority was to play. I spoke to the coach (Lucien Favre) and he really wanted me. I hope that this year will be very good. That’s all!”
Balotelli could make his Nice debut in the Mediterranean derby at home to Marseille on Sunday, September 11.
“He has enormous qualities. I have seen clips of his best moments and it was impressive, but this is a long-term job,” said Swiss coach Favre.
“Everything will depend on how willing he is. His fitness is the basis. Otherwise, I have no doubts about his technical ability.”