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Mar 9, 2013

Milner: Hard to hate Mario Balotelli

James Milner has said he misses the "crazy" but "harmless" character of Mario Balotelli in the Manchester City dressing room.

• Blog: Driven to Tevez distraction

Balotelli, 22, left City for AC Milan in January, completing a transfer in the region of £19 million after two-and-a-half eventful years at the Etihad Stadium.

The Italy international regularly made headlines during his time at England for his behaviour on and off the field, but Milner insists the forward is "hard to hate".

He told the Independent: "I miss him, to tell you the truth. He was crazy, he liked to be the centre of attention. It was like having a 12-year-old in the dressing room at times but he was harmless and I hope he does well in Milan – on the back pages of the paper rather than on the front.

"There were some days, admittedly, when he came in and you thought, 'Oh, Mario, leave it out' but it was very hard to hate him. Despite having players from all over the world, we have a pretty close dressing room at City. Mario would step out of line and one of the lads would tell him. He'd go off but half an hour later he would come back and apologise.

"The trick with Mario was to keep him busy. We had a Christmas event with some kids at the stadium. It was with me, Joe Hart and Mario. The kids would be given a tour of the ground and at various stages we would pop out and surprise them.

"I was supposed to come out of the trophy room holding the Premier League trophy. But Mario had to wait half an hour before his turn came and we thought he'd be a nightmare. So we let him sit in on an interview Harty was doing and then we gave him an iPad and he was playing Angry Birds on that. We just had to keep him occupied until the kids arrived."

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