ENGLAND goalkeeper Joe Hart does not believe Manchester City team-mate Mario Balotelli will ever be bothered about the numerous stories that appear about him.
The Italy striker has rarely been out of the headlines since his arrival in England in August 2010 - having to call the fire brigade after fireworks were released in his house, appearing unprompted at the unveiling of Inter Milan boss Andrea Stramaccioni, visiting prisons to name but a few.
There are so many bizarre off-field stories that even those that are not true - such as wandering around Manchester dressed as Father Christmas giving money away - seem plausible.
On the pitch Balotelli has been involved in more than his fair share of scrapes too, including three red cards for City last term and rows with teammates and manager Roberto Mancini. But there have also been moments of genius, such as his brilliant goal against the Republic of Ireland on Monday night.
It means that when Italy take on England in their Euro 2012 quarter-final showdown in Kiev on Sunday, for once Wayne Rooney’s presence will be a secondary issue.
And Hart knows Balotelli will not care a jot.
“Outside of football, people have taken a keen interest in what he does because he’s quite an extravagant guy,” the 25-year-old said.
“Mario accepts, with the way he is, that sometimes he’s going to bring attention to himself. But he has broad shoulders and I know whatever is written will not affect him. People can keep writing. Even when some things were made up, he wasn’t bothered. Things like that just kind of slide off him.”
Italy coach Cesare Prandelli has declared Balotelli to be “a puzzle”.
Hart cannot offer any unique insight into the 21-year-old’s character, other than to label him to be: “Totally unpredictable. That’s been proven many times.
“But unless you know him, you definitely don’t know him. He’s not really interested in keeping people happy. He’s not interested in acting up. He just is what he is.”