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Bonucci happy to keep scolding Balotelli
Published : 21 Jun 2012 18:18:45
Three days ago Italy centre-back Leonardo Bonucci put a brotherly yet firm hand over Mario Balotelli's mouth to prevent the talented youngster getting himself into bother.
And if he had to do it again, Bonucci would gladly repeat the gesture that even Italy coach Cesare Prandelli described as "protective".
"I played with him in the Inter Milan youth team. He was only 17 but already I used to reproach him, he's like that," said Bonucci.
"I took care of him in his moment of celebration against Ireland and he thanked me for that.
"Unfortunately, sometimes he does some stupid things but he's instinctive and he's still a good lad."
The often controversial Balotelli has been dominating headlines surrounding the Italian team at Euro 2012, in no small part due to his angry reaction after scoring against the Irish in their final Group D game.
The Italy camp have remained tight-lipped over who his ire was aimed at.
Balotelli had been dropped by Prandelli and given only 20 minutes at the end of the game, in which he was roundly jeered by Irish fans and before which he'd come in for much criticism from Italian journalists.
A moody character, there has been much talk about whether or not he gets on with his team-mates, but Bonucci claims there are no divisions in the camp.
"I don't think so, even yesterday (Wednesday) he was joking around with the corner flag in training with (Antonio) Di Natale.
"He even smiles sometimes. He's a player who can make a difference, he's unpredictable, strong and powerful.
"If he's physically in good shape he'll make it hard for Prandelli (not to pick him).
"I told him before the Ireland match, on the pitch he should think only about enjoying himself."
Italy play England in Kiev in the last Euro 2012 quarter-final on Sunday and Bonucci says there is something more than a little Italian about Roy Hodgson's side.
But nevertheless, he believes the Azzurri will be the stronger of the two.
"Given the way we've been playing I think we're better than England, but other things can also count," he said.
"England are starting to take on the look of Italy. They've learnt how to hit teams on the counter.
"They're fired up and have learnt how to defend."