All the rage

Love him or hate him, Mario Balotelli causing a stir in the soccer world

Updated: August 11, 2011, 1:12 PM ET
By Sam Alipour | ESPN The Magazine
Mario BalotelliAlex Livesey/Getty ImagesThe world is waiting for Mario Balotelli to become the type of player his talent suggests he can be.

MARIO BALOTELLI WALKS into a conference room at the Ritz-Carlton in Marina del Rey, Calif., and makes something known. "I've made a lot of mistakes," says the Manchester City striker. "I have to mature in many different areas."

Prescient words: In the 24 hours that follow, Balotelli will botch a hotdog back heel shot while alone on goal during a July 24 friendly against the LA Galaxy, get yanked from the game, yell at his manager and petulantly spike a water bottle. Twitter will erupt worldwide with #Balotelli jokes.

But that's tomorrow. Today, in a rare interview in English, Europe's most controversial soccer player is calm and focused. "I want to be the best player in the world," says Balotelli, who turns 21 on Aug. 12. "That is my objective."

Sam Alipour is a Senior Writer at ESPN Magazine and contributor to ESPN and Contact him at and on Twitter.