Rome, August 21 - AC Milan and Italy striker Mario Balotelli is "the most interesting man in the world", Sports Illustrated says. The 23-year-old Ghanaian-Italian was pictured in a Jesus-like pose, arms outstretched and apparently walking on a Miami swimming pool on the latest cover of the US sporting bible, an accolade only previously given to soccer's greatest-ever players, Pelé and Diego Maradona. "He's Italian, he's African, friend to popes and prime ministers, subject of racist hate and wild adulation (and) the best young striker in football," the cover said. Balotelli, a former bad boy who has become the poster boy for Italian soccer's fight against racism, last week had a private conversation with Pope Francis. AC Milan, which he joined from Manchester City in the Christmas transfer window, is owned by three-time Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi. In April Balotelli made Time magazine's annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world.