Milan - "Changed" AC Milan striker Mario Balotelli has pledged to continue defying crunching tackles on the pitch and taunts from rival fans off it after hitting his first goal for the Rossoneri since returning to the club.
"They will take my legs and yellow cards, but they won't get the ball from me," Balotelli said after Tuesday's 3-2 win against Udinese.
On what was his first start for Milan since returning to the club on loan from Liverpool, Balotelli struck a superb fifth-minute free kick.
It was his first start in an any official league game since April 28 when Liverpool faced Hull City, and his first goal for Milan since April, 2014, when he found the net against Livorno.
Milan's third win of the season fired Sinisa Mihajlovic's side up to fourth in the Serie A table ahead of the rest of the midweek fixtures on Wednesday and Thursday -- a welcome boost that came amid a social media mini-storm in which fans compared Milan's garish green and yellow away strip to the one worn by Jamaica's national side.
Despite being cautioned for a late challenge on Udinese midfielder Bruno Fernandes, for the rest of the encounter the 25-year-old Balotelli showed his growing maturity, soaking up abuse from home fans and a number of late challenges.
Known for his extravagant haircuts, wayward behaviour and an attitude that many pundits have described as "arrogant', Balotelli was forced to agree to a strict code of conduct before being able to re-sign for the seven-time European champions last month.
So far, club bosses have been impressed with his efforts. Despite having his driving licence suspended two weeks ago for driving his Lamborghini at 90km/h in a 50km/h zone, Mihajlovic believes Balotelli is not the impetuous, wild youngster he's often cast as in the media.
"He's shown that the real Balotelli is back. He was calm and showed he knows how to handle attempts to provoke him," said Mihajlovic, who took over from Filippo Inzaghi in the summer.
"He made the difference for us, but he has to continue like this because it's only the beginning."
Balotelli's detractors are less likely to be convinced - at least not yet.