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Modesty does not come easy to some footballers and for Mario Balotelli it seems a particularly difficult concept to grasp. Today, after revealing that he does not know who Jack Wilshere is and claiming that he is better than Cesc Fábregas and Wayne Rooney, the Manchester City striker finally admitted that Lionel Messi might be a tiny bit better than he is.


The Italian was speaking after being named the best young player in Europe and winning the Golden Boy trophy, organised by the Turin newspaper Tuttosport and voted for by European journalists to honour the most talented player under the age of 21. The 20-year-old beat the 18-year-old Wilshere into second place, before claiming that he did not know who the Arsenal midfielder is.


"What's his name? Wil ... ? No, I don't know him, but the next time I play against Arsenal I will keep a close eye on him," Balotelli said. "Perhaps I can show him the Golden Boy trophy and remind him that I won it."


The Italian then had a dig at previous winners of the award, including Arsenal's Fábregas, Manchester United's Rooney and Rafael van der Vaart, now with Tottenham, insisting only a single past recipient could claim to be a better player than him. "There's only one that is a little stronger than me: Messi. All the others are behind me."


A strong claim from a player who has not had an easy start to life in England. He has scored only two goals in seven Premier League games. He has also been injured and he has been sent off. On Monday evening he had a very presentable chance in the loss to Everton, when one-on-one with Tim Howard and with City a goal down, only to hit a post and injure himself while chasing the rebound.


Perhaps all the praise from Roberto Mancini has gone to the player's head. This season City's manager has said: "Balotelli can be as good as [Fernando] Torres and even better. That's because Torres can play only as a striker whereas Balotelli can play as a striker, a secondary striker, or a winger. He has a different attitude from Torres like that."


The 20-year-old has never lacked confidence, moreover. While at Internazionale he demanded an apology from the then manager José Mourinho after the two had had a row (needless to say, he never got it and was dropped from the next squad) and it is believed that his attitude was a major factor in the European Cup winners letting him go.


Today Balotelli said that the Golden Boy trophy is only a stepping stone towards being named the world's best footballer. "I am delighted to receive the award, but who should have won it but me? Two years ago I finished sixth and then fourth in 2009. It was finally my turn. My aim is that this prize will transform itself into the Ballon d'Or. To have won this award is a good omen to achieve that."


Balotelli also seems confident of helping his club to finally win something this season. "For 2011 I want the Premier League, in order to continue with the tradition I had at Inter of winning three consecutive titles, and to clinch the Europa League, a trophy I have not yet won and a competition where we are considered favourites."


3 years younger than Messi...


Messi - 154 goals in 237 games

Balotelli - 33 in 95...

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Balotelli has always been a massive bellend. Some people thought that it might be because of the racial abuse he received in Italy, but they are separate issues. He was always a bellend irrelevant of the disgusting chants aimed at him .

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Gayne Pooney has become the latest England player to be criticised by Mario Balotelli. The Manchester City striker previously claimed he had never heard of Jack Wilshere when the Arsenal midfielder finished runner-up to the Italian in a poll of Europe's best young players.


Now Balotelli has set his sights on his city rival Rooney. "He [Rooney] is a very good player but not the best [striker] in Manchester," said Balotelli.


The 20-year-old also claimed that he is as popular with Manchester United fans as he is with City's. "Do United fans insult me? No, they stop me in the street and say: 'Mario, come to us'. But I dream of beating them because I know how much the City fans care, they are wonderful with me."


The Italian, who is sidelined by a knee injury that may require an operation, claimed that Manchester City have a strike force that is the envy of every other club in Europe.


"Our attack of Balotelli-Tevez-Dzeko is the best in the world," Balotelli told Extra Time. "We are the strongest. Better even than Barcelona and Real Madrid."


Balotelli also aimed a jibe at his former Internazionale manager José Mourinho who, he believes, lacks the man-management skills of his current Manchester City manager, Roberto Mancini.


"[Mourinho] is the best coach in the world, but as a man he still has to learn manners and respect," Balotelli said. "[Mancini] is the most important coach I've ever had. He'll soon become the No1 in the world. But already now, in terms of human qualities, he is two kilometres ahead of Mourinho, wait, make that 10 kilometres.


"He continually repeats to me: 'When I joined Sampdoria from Bologna [early in his career] I already felt I was the best of all. Then I realised how hard I had to work to improve.' I've got the message."


Balotelli was also critical of Rafael Benítez, who succeeded Mourinho at San Siro last summer before being dismissed last month. "He just told me: 'You come after Milito, Eto'o and Pandev, fourth-choice striker.' I said: 'That's it, ciao.'"

Edited by Macca
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