Spotlight won't affect Balotelli - Hart

South Wales Argus: Joe Hart (left) insists the jokes are on hold with Italy's Mario Balotelli Joe Hart (left) insists the jokes are on hold with Italy's Mario Balotelli

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.

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. Hart 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."

He added: "People can keep writing. Even when some things were made up, he wasn't bothered. Things like that just kind of slide off him."

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."

However, having spoken to the striker during their time at nearby training bases in Krakow, it is clear the everyday football banter the pair tend to engage in at City's Carrington training complex is now on hold.

"Usually it's the ordinary mickey-taking arguments in training," he said. "Nothing's won or lost. This means something. There's a lot of respect for the game and for each other."

Comparisons between Balotelli and Rooney are inevitable given their prominence with the respective squads.

"They're two totally different guys, but both with immense talent, and the same goal for their team," Hart said. "Wayne's fantastic and Mario is exceptional too. It will good for everyone to watch those two players doing their thing on Sunday."

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