Nigel de Jong thinks Mario Balotelli should allow himself to enjoy the moment when he finds the net for City – especially as the Dutch midfielder is still waiting to find out how that feels!
The enigmatic Italian rarely smiles when scoring, seeing it as all part of his job, but his team mates led by de Jong finally got a couple out of him during his hat-trick against Aston Villa on Tuesday.
The popular Dutch midfielder, captain for last Tuesday’s game, has yet to bag one himself in nearly two years at the club but is keen to encourage the 20 year-old-striker when it happens for him.
“I’ve told him, ‘You’ve gotta keep smiling when you score!’” laughs Nigel. “Not everyone can score goals - I still haven’t scored in almost two years here - so Mario needs to keep smiling when he manages it.
“He’s a lively guy and he is a lively guy in the dressing room as well. Sometimes, his body language is not what you would want to have on the pitch, but he is a winner and he always wants to win and score.
He is quite critical about himself. If he loses the ball or doesn’t score a great opportunity, he criticises himself.
...Nigel on Mario
“But he is a top bloke and, at 20, he is still very young. We are all there to help him to settle in, though.”
Identified as a major talent at a young age in Italy, there was a lot of expectancy around Mario on his arrival at City from Inter last summer, so does Nigel think he can live up this?
“If you see the raw ability, yes,” he adds. “If he progresses over the next five years, then people will say he is one of the best strikers in the world.
“He is still a talent now, but he can become a great player and he knows that himself. You can only become a great player by working hard every day, though, and believing in yourself, with the backing of your team-mates. We will provide that, but he has to do the rest himself.”