Don't throw away career, Roberto Mancini urges Mario Balotelli


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The Independent Football

Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini has parting advice for Mario Balotelli: Take full advantage of this chance at Milan.

Mancini told Italian state radio that "Mario is a great kid, he just needs to understand how lucky he is to know how to play football, because a footballer's life passes in a hurry. Just think about [former Brazil and Internazionale striker] Adriano – he was the best player in the world, then in no time he disappeared."

Balotelli left City this week for Milan and a four-and-a-half-year deal. Mancini added that he would have been happy if Balotelli had stayed "but the decision was solely his and I think he's happy to be back in Italy".

Mancini's side enter February trailing rivals Manchester United by seven points at the top of the Premier League but the champions' manager believes the deficit can be wiped out in the coming weeks.

City have had a difficult week after being held to a goalless draw at QPR and accepting that after two-and-a-half years of trying to coax the best out of Balotelli, selling the fiery striker was in everyone's interests.

But now Mancini only wants to look forward and haul his side back into contention for more title success. The Italian, whose side host Liverpool tomorrow, said of United's lead: "This doesn't change [anything]. I think when we arrive at the end of February, the gap will be very, very small.

"In every championship, never one team won a title in January. We should fight until April. If they have seven, eight, nine points [lead] in April, it could be difficult, maybe. But in this moment we have a big chance."

Mancini, speaking at a press conference, also devoted considerable time to a discussion about Balotelli, who joined Milan in a reported £19m deal earlier this week.

The City manager claimed that the club were not happy to see the fiery and unpredictable striker, in whom they had invested so much faith, move on and that the decision to sell was not easy.

There was a feeling among some observers that Balotelli's extraordinary headline-grabbing capacity was a distraction that far outweighed his value on the field.

But Mancini, who was both the 22-year-old's fiercest critic and staunchest ally, felt the parting of the ways was a reluctant one.

He said: "We are not happy because I think he did well.

"Maybe not in the last three or four months because he had a big problem with injuries, but he did well because he helped the team win the Premier League and the FA Cup.

"We are sad for this but this is football."