EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Mario Balotelli has often flirted with greatness during his first six years in professional soccer. His teammate Kevin-Prince Boateng and coach Massimilo Allegri believe this is the season he puts everything together and becomes an elite player.
"He's adjusted very good [since his arrival in January]. He came and he's scored and that's important," Boateng told Goal. "We'll wait and he'll score more goals and he's going to become a bigger player than he is now."
Despite being a lightning rod for controversy during his time at Manchester City, Boateng insists that Balotelli has been a good teammate and is focused on the task at hand. To his credit, Balotelli has been on fire since returning to Serie A, pouring in 12 goals in his first 13 league appearances for Milan
"Balotelli has adjusted to Milan's players very good. We're friends and we talk a lot. Sometimes I help him and he helps me, he's a very good guy," Boateng said.
Allegri agrees with Boateng's assessment of Balotelli and points to his young striker's age as evidence of how much room he has to improve.
"Mario is still only 23-years-old but he has all of the capability to be a top player," Allegri said. "I expect Mario to be better than he was last year. He's had a chance to do preseason with the team and he'll have a full year with the team."
Balotelli's improvement could be a huge factor in determining whether or not Milan stays among Serie A's contenders.
Due to a lack of transfer funds, the Rossoneri haven't added any major upgrades to the team in the offseason, aside from Keisuke Honda joining the team next January on a free transfer. Combined with Fiorentina, Napoli, Roma and reigning champion Juventus all adding significant pieces this summer, and Milan could miss out on the Champions League altogether and the lucrative TV deal that comes with it.
Milan displayed some of its struggles, particularly on offense in a 2-0 loss to Chelsea in the Guinness International Champions Cup on Sunday. Boateng hopes that Milan's players, himself included, will step up their game to ensure that Milan lives up to its massive expectations as a storied Italian club.
"AC Milan, we expect to be the top this year. At a club this size, we want to be the best at everything,' Boateng said. "That's we expect and that's what everyone expects from us this year."
When prodded if Milan will finish in one of the Champions League places, Boateng confidently stated, "Of course, we will. That's for sure."
Follow Alex Labidou on Twitter
- Sports & Recreation
- Mario Balotelli