AC Milan star Mario Balotelli has been named in the 100 most influential people in the world by Time Magazine.
The 22-year-old has been included as part of the ‘icon’ section of the publication’s famous listing, alongside the likes of First Lady Michelle Obama, pop stars Beyonce and Justin Timberlake and Burmese politician Aung San Suu Kyi.
“Mario has all the qualities to be a top player: power and athleticism, alongside a good understanding of the game — all positive,” said former Italy star Gianfranco Zola, making the player’s case in the magazine.
“I worked with Mario for a short period with Italy’s Under-21 side. I liked him straight away. I liked the way he handled himself and his composure and calmness in situations.
“Mario could shrug off things happening around him. Only the big players have that calm. Mario can play the big games and handle the crucial moments, but he needs to keep control. That is vital for him.
“From afar, people may think he’s a madman, but he isn’t. Mario is a lovely guy, very humble and very funny. I can assure people he has always been a pleasure to deal with.
“He has returned to Italy from England as the main man with lots of attention. Now he has to ensure he keeps control and keeps focus. Mario loves the pressure, but to succeed, it is about finding balance.”
NBA superstar LeBron James and Chinese tennis star Li Na are the other major sports nominees to make the 100.