Fiorentina goalkeeper Emiliano Viviano said Mario Balotelli has the potential to establish himself among the world’s best-ever footballers.
The 22-year-old is enjoying a new lease of life since returning to Italy from Manchester City in January, netting eight times in as many games, a run of form which has propelled Milan to third and helped them become favourites to pip Viviano’s Fiorentina to the final Champions League spot.
And speaking to Gazzetta dello Sport ahead of Sunday’s showdown with Balotelli’s Milan, Viviano praised the former Manchester City man.
“He is an incredible talent who was born to play football. If he wants it enough, he can be one of the best ever,” Viviano said.
“He is physically strong, very quick and has an eye for goal. Since he arrived at Milan, they have changed gears.
“He is a golden boy and I love him. He has made mistakes, we talked and I tried to help him. But the media will always go with the wrong image of him.”
Viviano, 27, then turned his attentions to Sunday’s clash.
Milan hold a commanding six point lead over Fiorentina in the race for a top three finish, and the custodian is fully aware of the damage a defeat could do to their Champions League aspirations.
“It’s a must-win game. We have the opportunity to bridge the gap between us and Milan in the table so we must put everything at stake,” he added.
Former Fiorentina favourite Riccardo Montolivo is set to return to Stadio Artemi Franchi for the first time since his move to Milan last summer, and Viviano said a hostile reception from the stands will be indicative of the affection supporters previously held for him.
Viviano said: “Riccardo is a great player and a great guy. If he gets booed on Sunday, it will be because the fans loved him.”