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FRENCH LIGUE 1

2017/2018 Season

POS TEAM W D L PTS
5 Rennes 13 9 12 48
6 Nice 13 8 12 47
7 Montpellier 10 16 7 46
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NiceNice
Paris Saint-Germain Paris Saint-Germain
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 By Ian Holyman

Nice striker Mario Balotelli: Personal criticism annoys me

Nice forward Mario Balotelli says he dislikes personal criticism even if he is happy to rise above questions over his performance, and that he remains hopeful he will play for Italy again.

Balotelli has faced a mixture of expectation and criticism ever since he emerged as a youngster at Inter Milan. Controversy has followed him from Manchester City to Liverpool and AC Milan with his on-pitch performances often, according to his detractors, failing to match his potential.

His off-field behaviour has also come under scrutiny, and Balotelli told Nice Matin that is where he draws the line.

"What annoys me is criticism about personal things or me as a human," he said. "Regarding football, it doesn't affect me, in the sense that if I'm bad on Sunday, on Monday I can talk to the coach about what didn't go well, what I should or shouldn't have done.

"I know full well if I've been good or not, I don't need to read the paper to know. And if I've played badly, I can make up for it by working hard from Monday to Friday to be good on the following Sunday.

"It's not that other people's opinions don't interest me, but for me, the only way to move forward is to work.

"I don't like criticisms, but they exist and I accept them. They're part of the job, and if you don't accept them you have to change sport or even your job."

Mario Balotelli has enjoyed a return to form with Nice.

The 27-year-old's surprise move to Nice in summer 2016 has proven successful.

After claiming a career-best 15 league goals last season, Balotelli has already found the net five times in as many Ligue 1 starts this term.

His form has led to calls for Balotelli -- who produced a match-winning performance in the Euro 2012 semifinal against Germany -- to play for Italy national team for the first time since the 2014 World Cup.

So far, Azzurri coach Gian Piero Ventura has resisted the temptation, but Balotelli remains optimistic he will play for his country again.

"If the Nazionale coach wants to call me up, I'm ready," he said. "If he doesn't want to call me up, I'll always support the national team."

Ian is ESPN's French football correspondent. Twitter: @ian_holyman

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