- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 5, 2013

LONDON (AP) - Back in Italy after a turbulent period in England, Mario Balotelli has been voted player of the week in the Associated Press global soccer rankings for scoring twice in his first game for AC Milan.

Balotelli was the clear winner with 181 points from AP’s panel of 22 global soccer journalists, 64 points ahead of another player who moved in the January transfer window, Frenchman Moussa Sissoko, who scored twice on his debut for Newcastle against Chelsea.

Bundesliga leader Bayern Munich topped the team rankings as it continued to show total domination of the German league, with English Premier League leader Manchester United in second place.

Usual AP rankings leaders Barcelona and Lionel Messi were downgraded for average performances in Spain.

Will Tidey of the San Francisco-based Bleacher Report said no one should be surprised at Balotelli’s performance.

“How predictable that the enigmatic Mario Balotelli should twice on his Milan debut put in a man-of-the-match performance and highlight just how brilliant he is, just a matter of days after Manchester City decided he wasn’t worth putting up with anymore,” Tidey said.

Balotelli scored a stoppage-time penalty to give Milan victory over Udinese on Sunday, days after leaving Manchester City and a seemingly endless series of scandals and misbehavior.

Bayern Munich’s Croatia international Mario Mandzukic moved from eighth place last week to third after scoring twice in a 3-0 away victory against Mainz. The result opened a 14-point gap at the top of the league.

With 113 points, Mandzukic was just four points behind Sissoko.

Panelists award 10 points for their top player and top team, falling to one point for the 10th-placed team. Two new voters, Soeren-Mikael Hansen of Denmark’s Politiken newspaper and Bundesliga.com writer James Thorogood, joined the AP panel of global writers this week.

“Keeping Mario Gomez, one of Europe’s most prolific strikers, out of the Bayern first team is not an easy feat to do,” Thorogood said, “but Mario Mandzukic is making it look easy with five goals to his name since the winter break. The Croatian’s added dynamism is a weapon Munich didn’t have in their arsenal last season and, courtesy of his two well-taken goals against Mainz, the 26-year-old now leads the Bundesliga goal-scoring charts.”

Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney, with 13 goals this season, was voted into fourth place, clearly ahead of Tottenham’s Gareth Bale, who received widespread praise for his glittering performance and winning goal against West Bromwich Albion on Sunday.

“Gareth Bale has reached 11 goals in the Premier League, his best mark so far,” said Tito Puccetti of ESPN in Argentina. “He’ll certainly be the player sought after by the top teams next summer.”

Filip Bondy of the New York Daily News said the Welshman should be considered among the top attacking midfielders.

“Bale consistently sets a relentless pace and this weekend scored a remarkable winning goal, his 13th for Spurs,” Bondy said.

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