Mario Balotelli and Rio Ferdinand recall the rift from their Manchester days as they sat side by side in the Champions League final.
About a decade ago, Balotelli and Ferdinand were on opposite sides as Man City and United jostled for local bragging rights, much like when ‘noisy neighbors’ began to become a force in English football. .
That ignited an already stiff rivalry and, after a City win, Balotelli infuriated Ferdinand and his teammates by celebrating in front of United fans. BT Sport showed some stills of the couple engaging in a melee, but the passage of time means they can see the comedic side.
Ferdinand said: “Mario celebrated after the game, you beat us that day right. He was celebrating in front of our fans and I was offended, I wasn’t happy. But he remained calm under pressure, as always.”
Balotelli then gave his opinion on the incident in question. He explained: “I celebrated for their fans so I understand why they are angry. But, to be honest, it happened on the field and it stayed on the field.”
Another member of the BT Sport board in Istanbul, Joleon Lescott, then at Man City, also joined the fray, and Ferdinand jokingly referred to him as “security”.
Lescott recalls: “Mario was very calm in that situation. It’s probably as animated as I’ve seen Rio during his career. But Mario is excellent at attracting opposing players and fans.”
The maverick striker has been on both sides having played for both Inter and City during his eventful career, which is still ongoing as he finds himself at Swiss side Sion.
Early in his career, the Italian was known for his off-field antics as well as his prowess in front of goal. Balotelli was embroiled in numerous frictions, including with Jose Mourinho while at Inter and accused of fighting on the training ground with teammates.
One story involved a fireworks incident at his home, which started a small fire and is said to have caused significant damage to a set of curtains. His bad boy reputation warrants a lot of attention from the media.
Just like Balotelli, he had an answer for his detractors. After scoring in the Manchester derby at Old Trafford in 2011, Balotelli lifted his shirt to reveal the words: ‘Why always me?’, on his bra.
He arranged the message alongside the City’s kit and later admitted that it was a direct response to the negative media coverage he had received.
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