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Ahead of the opening Serie A clash with Verona, the AC Milan coach has backed the forward to be influential in the club's fortunes this season and hopes he scores 30 goals

AC Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri says Mario Balotelli has the characteristics needed to be the club's next captain.

Balotelli, 23, is no stranger to controversy, with a number of alleged incidents over the last few seasons highlighting his 'bad-boy' image, such as setting off fireworks, training ground bust-ups and throwing darts at youth team members.

However, some of his Milan team-mates have noticed a difference in the striker since his move back to Italy in January, citing a maturity in his behaviour and Allegri believes that, with a little fine tuning, Balotelli can become a great leader for the club.

Speaking ahead of the Rossoneri's opening Serie A clash with Verona on Saturday, Allegri told the club's official website: "I hope he’ll score 30 goals but it’s better if the goals come from all the forwards.

"He can turn into one of the best players in the world but like all young players he still has to improve in certain aspects. He’s young to be captain but he has the quality to become one."

While there may be concerns raised about Balotelli's temperament, his strike rate in Italy cannot be questioned. Twelve goals in 13 Serie A appearances at the turn of the year helped fire Milan to third place, and Allegri is hoping the club can build on that achievement in the campaign ahead while looking for a quick start which eluded them last season.

"We’re the same team as last season. We got [Andrea] Poli but we lost [Giampaolo] Pazzini and [Riccardo] Saponara is not available," he continued.

"Juventus are favourites and Roma, Lazio, Fiorentina, Napoli and Inter are the teams we’re up against for the top three spots.

"We have the quality to improve on last season and we have to start better than we did."

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