Mario Balotelli believes he has started proving his doubters wrong after scoring the first goal of his second spell with AC Milan.
The 25-year-old striker, on loan from Liverpool after a disappointing season at Anfield, netted as the Rossoneri beat Udinese 3-2 in Friuli on Tuesday.
Balotelli marked his first start with a stunning opening goal, the Italy international driving home a free-kick from long range after only five minutes.
And the controversial forward now feels he has taken the first step towards answering his critics, both at home in Italy and back in England.
He told the Gazzetta dello Sport: “It was a difficult game for me because I know they were trying to provoke me. I picked up a yellow card and that did ruin things for me a bit.
“But I’m happy with my performance.
“Slowly I’m starting to remove all the stones from my shoes, because in recent years, in Italy and England, they’ve concocted a lot of things about me. I’ve stayed silent.
“Are defenders trying to provoke me? Let them come and get their yellow cards, or try and take my legs out, but they won’t be seeing the ball.”
The former Manchester City player scored 30 goals in 54 games during his previous stint at Milan, but managed only four in all competitions for Liverpool in the 2014-15 campaign.
Milan boss Sinisa Mihajlovic said: “The real Balotelli has returned, and he can now handle the provocation.
“He was perfect, the best player on the pitch.
“He made a real difference and I’m happy with that, but he has to continue doing so.”