PARIS – Nice striker Mario Balotelli says he was persuaded to stay at the club by new coach Patrick Vieira despite having offers from five other teams, including one in China.
Balotelli angered Nice fans by missing training sessions during the summer as he weighed up his options before deciding stay on for a third season at the club. His decision was confirmed on Monday.
“I had the intention to leave and the club knew it,” he told the club's television channel in an interview, adding that one of the offers came from Nice's bitter rivals Olympique de Marseille.
“I understand the fans but they need to understand my side,” said Balotelli, who has scored 43 goals in 66 appearances for the club. “Nice are not playing in Europe, Marseille are playing in Europe. It's nothing to do with the supporters, I look at what is best; in the end I stay here.”
.@ogcnice_eng president Jean-Pierre Rivère reveals that @FinallyMario turned down megabucks off from China to stay with Les Aiglons in #Ligue1Conforama: https://t.co/1aNQ1UmmXD pic.twitter.com/b4ShoAATBS
In the end, the former AC Milan, Inter Milan, Manchester City and Liverpool forward said that Vieira “changed 80 percent of my decision”.
He added: “It is my choice because nobody tells me what to do. I do what I feel and what I want... the final decision in my career is always mine. I can have people who give me advice but the final decision is always mine.”
Balotelli, who in May was given his first Italy outing in four years by new coach Roberto Mancini, said his target of playing at Euro 2020 had dissuaded him from going to China.
“I had a big offer of money from China but not for now... I want to play the Euro 2020 for the national team and if I go to China that would be difficult.”