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The right-back believes the Brazilian is an example to the younger players, and has urged his controversial team-mate to grow up

AC Milan defender Ignazio Abate thinks Mario Balotelli can learn a lot from Kaka on how to become a model professional.

The former Manchester City striker has been battling a thigh injury, but the right-back believes he is not taking the necessary steps to return as quickly as possible.

Kaka has also spent the last month nursing an injury, only returning to action the past week, and Abate feels Balotelli can learn a thing or two from the former Real Madrid midfielder’s strict training regimen.

“[Kaka] is a shining example for all, especially for the younger ones,” he told Gazzetta dello Sport. “When he was injured, he came in the morning and left in the evening.

“For someone who has earned as much as he has and already won all he can in his career, he could afford to give the bare minimum, and instead he behaves like a top player.

“He gives everything to return to what he once was.

“[Balotelli] must understand that he is no longer a kid and that certain behaviours are not going to go over well.

“He needs to grow up as quickly as possible.”

However, Abate, 26, is confident the future is still bright for Balotelli and says the striker has all the skills and resources at his disposal to be one of the best players in the world if he can fix his attitude.

“The fact is that he has incredible potential, of which even he realizes. To me, after [Lionel] Messi, [Cristiano] Ronaldo and [Zlatan] Ibrahimovic, he’s next.

“We are fortunate enough to work for a club like Milan and in a place like Milanello.

“It is wrong to think of coming here just to punch the clock, and then go home. We should devote ourselves to our work.”

The former Torino defender’s contract expires at the end of the season, but he admits he would like to continue his playing career at the San Siro, while insisting they are capable of finishing in Serie A's top three again.

“I’m very close to Milan. I see myself here for a long time. I still have a year of my contract left, and my desire is to stay. I am no longer a kid, but not old either. Yet it is true, in a squad like this I hope to be a good example.

“We have the foundation to make another comeback, but we need to be balanced and not make any mistakes. However, this is a team which belongs in the top three.

“I like the return to 4-3-3, the team is more balanced, solid and covered with respect to our playmakers. At the back we still have to grow a lot, but when you undergo 13 goals in eight games it is easy to just blame the defence.”

Along with the defence, Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri has shouldered much of the blame for his team’s sluggish start, but the right-back has faith in his coach.

“His greatest quality is balance. He has always transmitted confidence, even in our worst moments. He handles the pressure and in these three years he cannot be accused of anything. He did all he could, including the miracle of third place last year.”

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