Saturday, 22 September 2012

Mancini admits he has soft spot for Balotelli

Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli’s future is once again the subject of speculation following continued concerns about his lifestyle.And after he was left out of Tuesday’s Champions League defeat at Real Madrid there have been further suggestions of a fall-out with his manager. Mancini dismissed those rumours on Friday, insisting that his patience for the Italian international was ‘endless’ - adding that he can even live with the player’s smoking habit if he performs on the pitch. But Mancini also warned the 22-year-old that he will have to accept a rotation policy that appears to leave him behind Carlos Tevez and Sergio Aguero in City’s pecking order. Balotelli might have expected to push for a regular starting place for the Premier League champions this season after starring for his country at Euro 2012.But with competition from Tevez, Aguero and Edin Dzeko, he is likely to find himself on the bench at times this term - or out of the squad entirely, as was the case at the Bernabeu.

Mancini said: “The European Championships are different. You have five games in 20 days.

“Here it is a tactical situation and one important player like Mario or James Milner can go in the stands. When we have all the players, it is difficult for me.

“It is difficult for every player, but we wanted to have this team. We improved this team.

“He was upset, this is normal for a player who can’t play in the Bernabeu.

“It was only a tactical choice, because I only needed two strikers on the bench. Three is too many.

“We have four top players and usually we played with two and two on the bench, but also we have players who can play as a second striker like Yaya Toure or Samir Nasri or David Silva.

“Yes it is difficult to keep Mario happy. But he went in the stand in Madrid and maybe he can play on Sunday.

“I don’t want it to be that every time Mario doesn’t play, it is because he did something wrong.”Mancini has clearly grown tired of the constant speculation about his relationship with the striker he nurtured as a prodigious talent at Inter Milan.

Balotelli’s high-profile indiscretions have tested his manager’s patience to the limit - earning two red cards last season and another ban for a stamp on Tottenham’s Scott Parker.

But it was his red against Arsenal, a game in which he also committed a knee-high challenge on Alex Song, that looked like spelling the end of his City career.

At the time Mancini appeared to be ready to wash his hands of the £24m hitman, saying: “He needs to change his behaviour if he wants to continue to play.

“I saw in my life a lot of players like Mario that are fantastic, arrogant guys. But, after, they lose all their talent like this and they finish in two or three years. Mario is this way.”

Balotelli has openly lampooned his image as a wild child, famously revealing a T-shirt that read: ‘Why always me?’ during City’s 6-1 win against United last season.

It was suggested that he was left out of the 3-2 defeat to Real this week after he was photographed on a night out with Amir Khan.

He has also been pictured smoking, which is hardly ideal behaviour for a top-class sportsman.

But while Mancini does not condone his habit, he insists it is the player’s performances on the pitch that are his main concern. And he chose to dismiss any talk of problems between the two leading to the decision to drop Balotelli.

“It is totally false,” he said. “It is not true. Mario went to the stand only because we decided to play with only Tevez.

“Mario is a player like other players, when he is on the bench sometimes they don’t understand.”

He added: “My patience for him is endless. It is not my problem if he smokes. I don’t smoke, I don’t like to smoke.

“If he wants to smoke, it is his problem. If he wants my opinion – it is better if he finishes.

“But if he smokes 10 cigarettes every day and scores two goals every game, it is okay.”

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