The Italian, who is now playing in the Turkish Super Lig, says only “some missed chances” prevented him from reaching the same level as two greats
Mario Balotelli has claimed that Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo don’t make him jealous because his “quality is at the same level”, while also insisting that he could’ve won the Ballon d’Or at Manchester City.
Balotelli is widely regarded as one of the most enigmatic players of his generation, having taken in successful spells at Inter, City and Milan, while he’s also had spells in France and Turkey.
The striker now plays for Demirspor in the Turkish Super Lig and acknowledges that he “missed some chances” to reach the very highest level of the game, but does not feel that anyone is above him in terms of individual ability.
What’s been said?
Messi and Ronaldo have won 12 Ballons d’Or between them, which Balotelli believes is the reason why he can’t claim to be in their class.
The 31-year-old isn’t “jealous” of the duo’s skill level, as he told The Athletic: “I missed some chances to be at that level.
“But I am 100 per cent sure that my quality is the same level as these people, but I… I missed some chances, you know? It happens.
“And nowadays, I cannot say I’m as good as Ronaldo, because Ronaldo won how many golden balls (Ballons d’Or)? Five? You cannot compare yourself to Messi and Ronaldo, nobody can.
“But if we’re talking about only quality, football quality, I have nothing to be jealous of them, to be honest.”
Balotelli reflects on Man City spell
Balotelli’s fall from grace began with an underwhelming stint at Liverpool between 2014-16, and he went on to play for Nice, Marseille, Brescia and Monza before being snapped up by Demirspor in 2021.
The former City star, who was recently called back into Italy’s national team squad, feels leaving Etihad Stadium in 2013 was the turning point in his career.
Had he stayed in Manchester longer, Balotelli is certain that he could have claimed his own Ballon d’Or and earned the same club legend status as Sergio Aguero.
“I think that was my biggest mistake, to leave City,” said Balotelli. “Even in the year when I left, I played very well in Milan for a year and a half, but after that, I had some problems. And now that I’m older, I know that I shouldn’t have left City at that time.
“All these years seeing City improving, improving and improving. I could have been here like Sergio Aguero for a long time.
“If I had my mindset now, when I was at City, probably one golden ball (Ballon d’Or) I could have won, I’m sure about this. But you know, when you grow up, you mature more.”
Asked if helping City to win their maiden Premier League crown in 2011-12 tops all the other trophies he’s won, Balotelli added: “I think, yes, yeah. That was more emotional than the Champions League [with Inter].
“The Champions League is amazing and obviously – it’s the Champions League and if you win the Champions League it’s the best title you can win with your club – but the way we won it with City and everything, that was emotional; too much emotion even for me, I was so emotional that day. It was unbelievable.”