Joe Hart reckons he’s sussed out Mario Balotelli’s unique penalty-taking methods – but won’t reveal the secret until his City team-mate has taken one against him in a competitive game.
With the possibility that could happen in Sunday’s Euro 2012 quarter-final between England and Italy, Joe is keeping mum - for now.
Mario has successfully converted every penalty he’s taken for the Blues so far with consummate ease, including the last-gasp high-pressure winner against Spurs last January, and Joleon Lescott revealed he also regularly takes them against Hart in training – with equal success.
“To be fair, Joe doesn’t usually get near them and he’s one of the best keepers in the world,” said Lescott. “In fact, when he eventually did save one, he ran around shouting as though he’d won the World Cup!”
With Hart now facing Balotelli for the first time in a competitive game, the England No.1 admits he will have to be at his best if he does face a spot-kick from the Italian striker.
“I hate to say it, he’s one of the best I’ve ever faced,” said Hart. “He's got this mad ability where he doesn't need to look at the ball.
If you don't move he kicks it in the corner; if you do move he kicks it the other way – it’s almost impossible to stop...
“I need to get inside his head and I reckon if I have to face one on Sunday, I would be able to stop him.”
Despite having a fantastic tournament so far, Joe believes he is far from the finished article. And it’s bad news for strikers around the world…
“I can definitely improve,” he said. “I like to think I'm improving in all sorts of areas. All keepers are going to have good patches and bad patches and at the moment I seem to be in a good one - but I know that can change. You need to be mentally strong, more than anything.”