Vieira takes a swipe at ‘non-existent’ Balotelli

VINOVO, ITALY - JUNE 03: Mario Balotelli of Italy speaks with the media during a Italy press conference at Juventus Center Vinovo on June 3, 2018 in Vinovo, Italy. (Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images)

OGC Nice manager Patrick Vieira took a swipe at Mario Balotelli after he returned to haunt his old club on Sunday by scoring the winner for Marseille.

On the back of failing to score a single goal in his 10 Ligue 1 appearances for Nice this season, Balotelli left the French Riviera during the January transfer window in favour of a switch to fellow French side Marseille.

Since then, the former Manchester City star appears to have rediscovered his scoring touch at the Stade Velodrome after making it five goals in seven games by heading in Lucas Ocampos’ cross as Marseille defeated Nice 1-0 on Sunday evening.

Balotelli has now become the first Marseille player to score in four home matches in a row for the first time in 45 years.

But Vieira, who fell out with Balotelli prior to his departure in January, took a dig at his former striker by claiming that he was almost “non-existent” throughout the encounter.

“We struggled to take chances, but on the other hand, we weren’t really put in danger either. We conceded the goal from a chance where we lacked a bit of experience,” Vieira told the club website.

“Patrick [Burner] was battling with Mario who finished well and wrong-footed [Remi] Walter. The difference came from this header but Mario was rather non-existent in the game. It was well played by him.”

FARO, PORTUGAL - JULY 20: LOSC Lille forward Nicolas Pepe from Ivory Coast during the match between FC Porto v LOSC Lille for Algarve Football Cup 2018 at Estadio do Algarve on July 20, 2018 in Faro, Portugal. (Photo by Carlos Rodrigues/Getty Images)

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The Arsenal legend credited midfield duo Morgan Sanson and Maxime Lopez for Marseille’s current run of results after the French club secured their fifth win in six games.

Vieira added: “The strength of this team is its midfield. Sanson and Lopez played very well this evening and for me, Marseille’s results are due to the quality of these two players, because they add rhythm, can defend and push forward.

Nice, who are ninth in Ligue 1, will next take on Toulouse on Friday night.

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