Mario is his own man - Bonucci

21 June 2012 05:48

Italy defender Leonardo Bonucci remains coy about being nominated as a mentor to Mario Balotelli in the build-up to Sunday's European Championship quarter-final against England.

Bonucci has found himself cast as Balotelli's minder since putting his hand over the striker's mouth during the Azzurri's decisive Group C win over Republic of Ireland. Balotelli looked to be shouting something at the Italy bench after responding to being dropped by scoring as a substitute in Monday's 2-0 win.

Asked if that made him an example for Balotelli to follow, Bonucci said: "We are two different people. Mario's spontaneous, a young guy. But we also had different experience. We had different lives, so you can't really compare players in this way."

Juventus centre-back Bonucci claimed the firebrand striker was speaking English and he did not understand what was being said but decided it was better to silence him.

Like Balotelli, Bonucci has been dogged by controversy this season, having been caught up in the latest Italian match-fixing scandal. The 25-year-old, who denies any wrongdoing, kept his place in Italy's Euro 2012 squad when others under investigation were left at home.

Bonucci has managed to put his troubles to one side in Poland and Ukraine, starting his country's first two games at the tournament and coming off the bench in the third.

Bonucci revealed Balotelli thanked him after Monday's game for halting what may have become a "a worse situation".

"Yeah, he said to me thank you for what I did," Bonucci said. "Now he has to be calm and to do his best on the pitch."

Were he to manage that, Balotelli would almost certainly represent the biggest possible threat to England on Sunday.

Bonucci said: "Physically and technically, he can be very dangerous to the England team. I don't know yet if he can be in the starting line-up because this is our manager's decision. But, if he trains in the proper way, I think he can really be useful to beat England."

Source: PA

World Cup Group G

Belgium 1 0 0 3 3
England 1 0 0 1 3
Tunisa 0 0 1 -1 0
Panama 0 0 1 -3 0
Last updated : 08:44