After a couple of difficult weeks, it was back to business for Mario Balotelli. The striker made his return from suspension as Nice went to Dijon on Saturday, and while he was not able to break his away-day duck in Ligue 1, he did help his side to victory.
Life was made difficult for the title hopefuls at Stade Gaston Gerrard, with a packed defence foiling the efforts of Balotelli and his team-mates for over an hour. Isolated, the Italy international found it tough to make inroads, although one fierce shot was repelled by Baptiste Reynet.
Wylan Cyprien proved Nice’s matchwinner with a deft finish but Balotelli, who had been criticised for a lack of work-ethic would have silenced some of his critics with a busy and determined display.
Certainly, he practised what he had preached on social media before the game when he posted a picture before the encounter with the fans’ motto ‘Issa Nissa’.
After the game, he helped to dispel rumours of dressing room unrest as he posted a selfie with the rest of the squad, with the striker smiling, front and centre. “Team, together. Well done to the guys!” he said.
Earlier in the week, Balotelli gave a glimpse into his past and one of the players who has influenced his career.
Throwback Thursday saw him praise Luis Figo, with whom he played for two seasons as the Portuguese was winding down his career at Inter. This is not a new revelation, though – speaking in 2014, Mario named Figo as one of his top three team-mates of all-time along with Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Andrea Pirlo.
While there has been growing speculation over his future, the striker appears typically cool.
If he feels under pressure, he is certainly not showing it.
On Friday, Nice kick off the Ligue 1 calendar for matchday 29 at home against Caen, with Balotelli aiming to get back on the goal trail.