LONDON: Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini has suggested that Mario Balotelli’s entire career could be over in two years after admitting he would “probably” sell the striker this summer.
The opinion of Jose Mourinho, at Internazionale, that Balotelli was “unmanageable” should have been enough of a red flag for every other manager in the world. Mancini thought he knew better and the extent of his misjudgment – or betrayal – is that Balotelli has proved the destabilising force which is sending City’s title challenge the way of the Titanic.
Sunday’s 1-0 defeat at Arsenal, which saw Balotelli dismissed in the closing minutes for the third time this season, dealt a potentially fatal blow to City’s title hopes, to Balotelli’s future at the club and to Mancini’s own job prospects.
Too late, after the game, Mancini said: “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.”
He added: “He could be my son, and I understand when you are young, you can make some mistakes. Mario is a guy who’s made mistakes. I hope for him, not me, that he can change.”
Maybe Balotelli the man will change. But Balotelli the footballer appears almost beyond redemption.
His red card in the dying seconds – for double yellow – earned him an automatic three-match ban but Mancini even encouraged the Football Association to throw the book at the player for an earlier incident that went unpunished. Balotelli got away with a knee-high challenge on Arsenal midfielder Alex Song that the FA are bound to punish retrospectively if referee Martin Atkinson confirms he and his assistants did not see it.
Theoretically, Balotelli could end up suspended for City’s final six games, which look set to confirm them as runners-up to Manchester United.
Mancini refused to throw in the towel, saying: “We need to do the maximum that we can do in the last month and after, in the end, we will see. I won one title where I was five points behind with five games to the end. This is football. Everything can happen, always. It is clear that we need to start to win.”
Watching City chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak will wonder whether Mancini is the right man to take City forward after the man-management disasters with both Balotelli and Carlos Tevez.
Mancini thinks he is. He said: “When I arrived, City were seventh or eighth. After six months, we were fighting for the Champions League and lost against Tottenham one game from the end. Second year, we were in third position on goal difference from Chelsea and won the FA Cup. Today, we have 15 points more.”
But not enough.
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