James Milner says there are two different sides to Mario Balotelli as it was revealed the Italy striker has been warned to be on his best behaviour in Sunday’s quarter-final against England.
Balotelli has frequently hit the headlines for his antics both on and off the pitch, with his prodigious talent often overshadowed by his erratic temperament, but England midfielder Milner expects the big occasion to bring out the best in his Manchester City team-mate in Kiev.
"We've seen Mario,” he said. “He is a different player. He's going to cause you problems. He is very strong. Shooting-wise he can cause problems. He is tricky, a clever player as well.
"There are two Marios. There is one who turns up sometimes in training and it is a bit cold and he is not too interested. The other time he really wants it, as I'm sure he will against England, and he is a special talent. He is a top player and we know that. I'm sure he will be at the top of his game."
Even so, Milner is confident another City colleague, Joleon Lescott, will be able to keep Balotelli at bay as England bid to reach the semi-finals of the European Championship for the first time since 1996.
He said: "Joleon has been like that all season for City and now he is doing it for England as well. He obviously knows Mario well, trains with him every day and I'm sure he will keep him quiet.
"No doubt he is a danger but he is one of many - they have a lot of good players in their team. We have to make sure we don't just concentrate on Mario and we will do our homework and try and perform well, but we know if we play to the best of our ability, we can get another win."
Balotelli started on the bench for Italy's final Group C clash against Republic of Ireland, but staked his claim for a place in the starting XI when he hooked home a late goal to seal the win.
He had to be gagged by team-mate Leonardo Bonucci as he began an angry rant having scored the goal, and Italy midfielder Daniele De Rossi said Balotelli's temperament is a cause for concern for coach Cesare Prandelli.
"If Balotelli wants to grow, he must learn how to react to provocation and situations that he finds difficult," De Rossi said. "There is a lot of talk and scandal around him because he's young, strong-headed, plays for a big club and has a lot of talent, but he is used to these scandals. He makes mistakes on and off the pitch, and it is his responsibility to rectify them."