Fulfilling a father's wish: Mario Balotelli aims for Euro 2016
ABS-CBN Sports on Aug 28, 2015 10:28 AM
Italian soccer forward Mario Balotelli arrives at AC Milan headquarters, in Milan, Italy, Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2015. AC Milan's vice president Adriano Galliani said the club is in talks with Liverpool about bringing striker Mario Balotelli back to Serie A. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
MILAN (AP) — Back with AC Milan after a dismal season at Liverpool, Mario Balotelli is hoping to realize a wish of his recently deceased adoptive father: playing for Italy again at next year's European Championship in France.
Balotelli's season-long loan was made official Thursday.
"I want to do well with Milan to regain the national team shirt," Balotelli said. "I've just got to work now. One step at a time. And if I put some things together just maybe I'll get to France.
"I want to play in the European Championship and I'll do everything I can to do so," Balotelli added. "Seeing me in the national team shirt was one of my father's desires before he died. I owe it to him, too."
Francesco Balotelli died last month.
Balotelli has fallen out of favor with Italy coach Antonio Conte after scoring only one Premier League goal in the year since he joined Liverpool from Milan for 16 million pounds (then $27 million).
His form last season was a far cry from when he led Italy to the final of Euro 2012, scoring both goals in the 2-1 semifinal win over Germany. After that match, Balotelli rushed over to his adoptive mother, Silvia, and embraced her.
Balotelli hasn't played for Italy since the Azzurri were eliminated in the first round of last year's World Cup.
But he scored 30 goals in 54 appearances in his first stint with Milan.
"I feel like someone who has just cast aside the first half of his career — played and lived as a kid. But the match isn't over," Balotelli told the Gazzetta dello Sport, in comments posted on Milan's website.
"Now I'm going to play and live as a man," the maverick striker added. "I know many people don't believe in my comeback. But it's my duty to try and I'm certain I will pull it off."
Balotelli hasn't featured in a competitive game for four months, and Milan has reportedly installed strict social media and behavior guidelines in his contract.
Besides pledging to not damage Milan's image on Twitter, the rules also prevent Balotelli from smoking, drinking past a certain threshold and from entering night clubs.
"I know I can't make any more mistakes," Balotelli said. "I'll accept every rule. I haven't forgotten how to play football. I'm 25 and I'm not a baby anymore."