'Hard-to-hate' Balotelli is missed at Manchester City, admits Milner

The England international speaks fondly of his former team-mate, who left the club to join AC Milan in January, insisting that he is a "good guy" despite some character flaws
Manchester City midfielder James Milner admits that he misses former team-mate Mario Balotelli's presence at the club.

The 22-year-old brought an end to his headline-grabbing stint in the Premier League in January by sealing a £22 million return to his homeland with AC Milan and, although the England man concedes that the Italian could occasionally test his team-mates' patience, he believes that the forward is "hard to hate".

"I do miss him, actually," the 27-year old told reporters. "He was crazy, he liked to be the centre of attention and it was like having a 12-year-old in the dressing-room at times.

12/1 James Milner is 12/1 with BetVictor to score the first goal when Manchester City play Barnsley
"But he was a good guy, he was harmless and I hope he does well in Milan. He's got ability and hopefully he can prove it over in Italy.

"You'd get those days where you'd think: 'Mario, not today. Leave it out' but it was very hard to hate him, despite the crazy things he did.

"At times Mario would step out of line and one of the lads would tell him. If he ever did that, it would go off, but half-an-hour later he would come in and apologise."

Milner noted that Balotelli had to be kept occupied off the field to stop him being a "nightmare".

"You had to keep him busy," he explained. "We did a Christmas event for some children at the ground and Mario had to wait about half-an-hour to do his bit.

"We were thinking: 'What can we do with him? He's going to be an absolute nightmare.' He ended up sitting in on an interview with Joe Hart for 20 minutes, then someone gave him an iPad to play 'Angry Birds' on.

"You had to keep him occupied until it was his turn to meet the kids but, once he did, he was great with them."