It’s been another successful week for Nice, who re-established a three-point advantage over Monaco at the summit of the Ligue 1 standings as Paris Saint-Germain slipped to a shock 3-0 defeat to Montpellier on Saturday.
Injury prevented Mario Balotelli from featuring in a 1-0 victory over Guingamp or in Sunday’s crushing 3-0 home win over Toulouse, yet the forward has again hit the news, particularly in Italy.
The striker continues to be a major talking point back home, with more support this week for his recall to the Italy national team, not to mention suggestions that he might fancy a move back to Serie A with Napoli.
Ever-popular Gianfranco Zola has tipped the 26-year-old to find himself back with the Azzurri for the first time since 2014 following a strong run of form in France.
“It seems to me that he is working very well and I wish that he can maintain and sustain that level of performance for much longer,” the ex-Chelsea attacker told Omnisport. “If he does that I'm sure it will only be a matter of time before he is back in the national team.
“With Balo it has never been a matter of his ability but it has been a matter of how well he can handle himself. But I'm delighted that he is finding the balance that allows his qualities to come through.”
Meanwhile, the forward’s Twitter admiration of Napoli – and in particular the early goal that Piotr Zielinski scored against Inter – has sparked speculation that he might fancy a transfer to Naples.
Napoli wow che gol — Mario Balotelli (@FinallyMario) December 2, 2016
Ma i giocatori del napoli ? Maaaammaaaa mia — Mario Balotelli (@FinallyMario) December 2, 2016
“Napoli, wow that goal!” he tweeted as the Pole scored inside the first couple of minutes, before adding: “The Napoli players! Maaaammaaaa mia.”
Loving the scent of a transfer story, the Italian media were swift to ask Napoli head coach Maurizio Sarri about a potential move, and he certainly did not close the door to a deal.
“I do not deal with the transfer market, but if he likes I can forward him [director of sport Cristiano] Giuntoli's number,” Sarri told Rai Sport.
While all this was going on, Balo was threatening to destroy his own home with some destruction derby keepy-ups, proving at least that playing football is considerably less dangerous than setting off fireworks in the bathroom.
And a day later he was showing off his French once more on Instagram, wondering as two colleagues chatted: “But I don’t understand why it’s got to be like that. I’m very intelligent.”
Sunday brought a couple more interesting stories, including a report from the Sunday Times that Liverpool were wary of the player’s bad-boy reputation and inserted a clause into his deal at Anfield that he would earn a £1 million bonus for good behaviour.
“If during each season of the term of this contract the player is not dismissed from the field of play on three or more occasions for violent conduct, spitting at an opponent or any other person, for using offensive, insulting or abusive language and/or gestures and/or for dissent by word or action ... then on the 30th June at the end of each season he shall receive a bonus payment of £1m,” the contract is said to have read.
Meanwhile, AC Milan president Silvio Berlusconi elected to compare Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi to the striker. “Renzi is like Balotelli. He could be the best, he has quality and he’s brilliant but he’s a promise that will never be realised,” he said earlier in the week.
Presidente Berlusconi.. perché metti il mio nome anche nella politica? Ti manco per caso? nel cuore sempre — Mario Balotelli (@FinallyMario) December 4, 2016
The Rossanero sent back a cheeky tweet to end his week, stating: “President Berlusconi, why are you mentioning me also in the political debate? Are you missing me? AC Milan always in my heart.”
Next week Balotelli is expected back on the field, with next Sunday’s big game against PSG earmarked for his return.