Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli has praised manager Roberto Mancini for believing in him when "no-one in England", vowing to build on his impressive start to the season and ensure people see "the real Mario".
Balotelli, 21, has never been far from the spotlight since arriving at Eastlands in 2010 and has faced criticism for his lack of discipline on and off the pitch, which has manifested itself in him being caught throwing darts at youth team players and getting quizzed by police over apparent links to the Mafia.
But the Italy international has put his numerous off-field misdemeanours to one side this season and has flourished on the pitch, with his five goals in six games helping City to the top of the Premier League table.
Having finally appeared to have found his feet at Eastlands, Balotelli is now hoping he can continue to improve and repay the faith in him shown by Mancini, who has regularly defended his temperamental forward.
"I'm happy, I train good and I feel good and that's how it should be always," Balotelli told The Mail on Sunday. "I'm getting better all the time. The real Mario is coming now and it isn't the same Mario as last year."
"With Mancini I feel very comfortable. I've known him a long time and he's a good manager. He believes in me - even when no one in England believed in me, he did. And he kept on believing in me. I want to do something important here with him."
Balotelli is likely to feature in his first Champions League game for City on Wednesday when they travel to Villlarreal for a crunch Group A encounter. The striker missed the first three European games of the season, serving a ban for a red card received in last season's Europa League defeat to Dynamo Kiev.