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â€¢ Mancini says he would like striker to stay this summer
â€¢ Balotelli unhurt after crashing Bentley in Manchester
Roberto Mancini has told his squad not to criticise Mario Balotelli publicly although he admitted that if he were one of the forward’s team-mates he would “punch him in the head every day”. The manager also insisted that he wants the player to stay at Manchester City next season.
Nigel de Jong had described the temperamental striker as a “fool” and a “genius” this week and although Mancini did not address the Dutch midfielder directly, he said: “Team-mates should only play. For Mario it’s my job [to manage him] not [the players]. Because when you have a player like Mario you should always not talk bad things against him because he is your team-mate. If you say something it’s better to talk face to face â€“ to say what you think.
“It is always like this. Mario is young, he can do some mistakes, he has paid for his mistakes.”
Pressed if he could see why some of the squad might be annoyed with the 21-year-old’s attitude, a smiling Mancini said: “I can understand. I told him that if you played with me 10 years ago I give to you every day maybe one punch in your head. But there are different ways to help guys like Mario.”
Mancini also stated that none of his squad had approached him about Balotelli. “No. I spoke with players when Mario arrived two years ago. I said: ‘Mario is a young player, he has a fantastic talent but he is young he can do some mistakes sometimes.’” Mancini then denied his countryman benefits from preferential treatment from the City management.
“It’s not true because Mario stayed on the bench for five, six games at the start of the season. And he paid a lot of money in a fine for his behaviour [a week's wages for breaking a curfew last month]. I want to help him always, also when I am disappointed with him, because this is my job.”
In his latest off-field episode, Balotelli crashed his white Bentley in the Deansgate Locks area of Manchester on Thursday afternoon. The striker was unhurt although a female travelling with him was taken to hospital as a “precaution”. The 21-year-old collided with a Vauxhall Corsa, although the club claimed it was not Balotelli’s fault and the driver of the other car was also unhurt.
“Every big game he plays very well. His problem is concentration. But I work with him every day. I don’t speak with him every day because otherwise I would need a psychiatrist,” Mancini joked. “But I speak with him because I don’t want him to lose his quality. Mario can be one of the top players in Europe. I don’t want him to lose his talent.”
Asked if he is 100% certain Balotelli will stay at the club this summer, the manager said: “I don’t know this. I think so. I would like him to stay. Mario Balotelli has a three- or four-year contract. And I hope maybe in the last seven games he can score and we can talk only about this.”
If Manchester United beat Queens Park Rangers at Old Trafford in Sunday’s earlier game City will kick off at Arsenal eight points behind their rivals. If City fail to win at the Emirates, Mancini believes their title challenge is over. “If we lose at Arsenal and United beat QPR, then yes. I can say that I am proud of what the players have done in this championship until today. We were on the top for a long time, we fight with United until now, and I think we have improved as a team in the Premier League. And we got 10 points in the Champions League which is normally enough to qualify. Maybe we made some mistakes in the Europa League but I think we have improved a lot as a team. And it is not over yet. I believe this championship is not finished yet.” Sergio AgÃ¼ero should have recovered from his blistered foot for the game at Arsenal.