Balotelli follows Rooney route to beat knee injury


Manchester City have sent Mario Balotelli, whose persistent knee injury is a source of concern to Roberto Mancini, for two weeks in the United States under the care of the specialist who helped Jonny Wilkinson through his career-threatening injury.

Mancini, who has declared that the 20-year-old can become one of the world's great strikers, has put him in the care of the world-renowned Vermont-based Bill Knowles, who has also worked with Tiger Woods and several of Wilkinson's England team-mates. Knowles, a knee reconstruction specialist and physiotherapist based at the Vermont Orthopaedic Clinic in New England, has also worked with skiers and is known for his huge personal energy as well as expertise.

Mancini believes that two weeks away from the intensity of City may also help Balotelli to focus on recovery and sees potential for his prodigy to benefit from the seclusion in the same way that Wayne Rooney did at Nike World in Portland, Oregon, at the height of his personal difficulties last November.

Balotelli is understood to have been disappointed to have to leave Manchester, though Mancini and his staff want him to be in contention for next month's Manchester derby at Old Trafford and told him that he must take the two weeks. He left the city for London last Friday morning and is not expected back until a week today. "He can work quietly without a problem; without the pressure that he has here," Mancini said of the £24m summer signing. "He's gone out there to work and to improve his knee. He can work without any problems."

Balotelli's left knee injury is not affecting his ability to walk or drive and is only a problem under the stress of competitive action but, given the relatively innocuous incident which caused the problem – he overstretched the joint on his City debut in the Europe League qualifying round at Timisoara – the struggle to recover is puzzling. Balotelli has already undergone keyhole surgery on the lateral meniscus, one of the most crucial structures in the knee. There is a feeling that the lack of muscle development around the knee may be a contributory factor, or that Balotelli may have been too keen to return early.

There is a history of Milan-based players turning to the US for recuperation. Milan's Alexandre Pato has used a base in North Carolina while Thiago da Silva has tried something similar. Mancini said the former Internazionale striker's struggle to overcome his physical problems meant he was yet to operate at full fitness. "He arrived and he had a problem so he's never been 100 per cent while he's been here," the manager said. "But he's improved with games. For him it's important to start to play regularly – then he can show the supporters he's a good player."

Five goals in seven league starts explain Mancini's desperation to resolve the problem and the derby on 12 February is a possible target date for Balotelli: "Yes, maybe," Mancini said. "But it's more important that when he comes back he can play in all the games for the rest of the season. That's more important than the derby or the week before, or the week after."

The effect was certainly pronounced for Rooney, who had just emerged from his marital and contractual problems when United sent him to Portland. Balotelli's frustrations at having to leave Manchester are understandable, given that with the help of family and friends he is now becoming acclimatised to life in the city. Balotelli's joie de vivre in his new environment was revealed earlier this week in an interview with Gazzetta dello Sport in which he discussed his new-found friendship with his neighbours on the ninth floor of a central Manchester apartment block and the role Aleksandar Kolarov and Patrick Vieira have played in helping him to settle.

Balotelli's jocular suggestion that Rooney was "not the best striker in Manchester" has not been taken as a serious statement in some quarters, though Mancini insisted that the player was comfortable with his comments.

"I know he likes to joke sometimes," Mancini said. "Mario has fantastic talent. He has everything he needs to be one of the best strikers but he needs to improve and work and show all these things. But it's a free world, if he wants to speak then he can speak. If somebody wants to say something then it is better that he says it. This is not the SAS. It's not like the war when we couldn't speak. If you want to say everything then you can say it. But it is important that he shows here his talent. For his future it's important that he improves. At the moment, this is the best league in Europe. This time is very important for him. I don't think he means this [comment about Rooney]. He is a fantastic player. United, City, United, City... [the rivalry is] normal."

Mancini, who has ruled out a bid in this transfer window for the 17-year-old Anderlecht forward Romelu Lukaku, has concluded ahead of tomorrow's trip to Aston Villa that United have overtaken Chelsea as the prime Premier League threat. "I think Chelsea will come back again. At the moment, Man United are better than Chelsea," he said. Mancini is set to allow captain Carlos Tevez to continue as penalty taker, despite missing consecutive kicks. "If he scores yes, if he doesn't then no. Maybe [one more chance]," he said.

Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol
art'Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' followed hoax reports artist had been arrested and unveiled
Life and Style

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

Stephanie first after her public appearance as a woman at Rad Fest 2014

Arts and Entertainment
James Blunt's debut album Back to Bedlam shot him to fame in 2004

Singer says the track was 'force-fed down people's throats'

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
peopleJust weeks after he created dress for Alamuddin-Clooney wedding
Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

football West Brom vs Man Utd match report: Blind grabs point, but away form a problem for Van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
Bloom Time: Mira Sorvino
tvMira Sorvino on leaving movie roles for 'The Intruders'
Arts and Entertainment
Leonardo DiCaprio talks during the press conference for the film

Film follows park rangers in the Congo

Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
Adel Taraabt in action for QPR against West Ham earlier this month
footballQPR boss says midfielder is 'not fit to play football'
First woman: Valentina Tereshkova
peopleNASA guinea pig Kate Greene thinks it might fly
Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album