Prandelli vows to stand by 'regretful' Balotelli

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The Independent Online

Italy manager Cesare Prandelli has pledged to support Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli and help aid his development. The 20-year-old striker has endured a turbulent time in the north-west since joining Roberto Mancini's side from Internazionale in the summer.

Mancini lauded Balotelli as an "exciting player" whose style would suit the Premier League when he completed his £24m move in August 2010. However, it is moments of indiscretion rather than magic that have peppered his stay with City.

In Balotelli's 21 appearances for City he has already picked up nine yellow cards and two reds, with the most recent coming for planting his studs into the chest and thigh of Dynamo Kiev defender Goran Popov last week.

The Europa League sending off has resulted in his omission from the Italy squad as manager Prandelli looks to implement a new ethical code. But speaking ahead of last night's Euro 2012 qualifier in Slovenia, Prandelli promised to support Balotelli.

"For Mario, the important thing is that there is a reflection on his mistakes," he said. "He has felt this unease and is regretful. He has asked for help and we will stay close to him to help in his development."

While Balotelli can be a disruptive influence, he is considered one of the most gifted players to have been produced in Italy over recent years. Such a dearth of young talent has led some to argue the well of talent on the peninsula is drying up, leading Prandelli to admit that Italy need to go back to basics.

"The moment has come for us to have faith in the former greats of our football and learn from them," he added. "My rallying cry is work, work, work. And I strongly believe in Italy's renewal. I don't find the great number of talented players Slovenia are producing to be unbelievable.

"Nothing is unbelievable if there is planning and your idea of football is cultivated. Another Franco Baresi will emerge, of that I am sure," Prandelli added.

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