Nice’s Italian forward Mario Balotelli (C) reacts after scoring a goal during the French L1 football match between Nice (OGCN) and Monaco (ASM) on September 21, 2016 at Allianz Riviera Stadium in Nice, southeastern France.
VALERY HACHE / AFP
Controversial star Mario Balotelli continued his fine start to life on the French Riviera by helping fire Nice to the top of Ligue 1 on Wednesday.
The Italy international scored his second brace in as many league appearances for Nice in a 4-0 thumping of local rivals Monaco to leap-frog champions Paris Saint-Germain at the top of the table.
The often wayward 26-year-old now has four goals in three games since he joined the Cote d’Azur outfit on a free transfer from Liverpool, where his career had stalled over the last couple of years.
It means in his two league appearances this season, Balotelli has already scored twice as many goals as he did in league matches over the previous two seasons combined — he scored once in 20 Serie A appearances on loan at AC Milan last season and one in 16 Premier League matches for Liverpool the previous campaign.
“Long may it continue,” said Nice goalscorer Paul Baysse of Balotelli’s start.
“He’s a great player who also works hard for the team. He tries hard and he has the right mentality.
“Everyone knows he’s a good player, that he’s managing to buy into the team spirit is great for everyone.”
Balotelli had also scored a brace on his league debut for Nice in a 3-2 victory over another south coast rival in fallen giants Marseille.
The striker had already had a low shot saved by Monaco goalkeeper Danijel Subasic when Nice took the lead on 17 minutes as Baysse headed home a Jean Seri free-kick.
The errant Italian then ran onto a pinpoint through ball from Nice’s other marquee summer signing on loan from Dynamo Kiev, Morocco international Younes Belhanda, before firing across Subasic into the far corner on the half hour.