Balotelli urged to be patient amid worries over form and fitness
Mario Balotelli was frustrated with himself, rather than his manager, when he left the field after an hour of Manchester City's FA Cup win over Notts County, having felt that that he should not have missed out on goals. Balotelli's characteristically vivid expression of frustration – he threw his snood to the ground – was interpreted as a reaction to Roberto Mancini's decision to substitute him, though the 20-year-old is understood to feel that he had a poor game and that he missed out in a way that his team-mates did not.
The Italian has emerged unscathed from the clash of heads with County's Krystian Pearce – which caused him to leave Eastlands for hospital in an ambulance when he later felt nauseous and unwell in the City dressing room. Balotelli was soon making light of the injury, though there was a need for a scan. Balotelli has been unfortunate with head injuries, Sunday's heavy clash being the latest of three that included a collision with a post when playing for Internazionale at Genoa.
The Italian is being urged to display patience – not his strongest suit – after nearly two months out with a recurrence of the knee injury he sustained in his club's Europa League qualifier at Romanian side Timisoara at the start of the season.
His team-mate Yaya Touré said of the striker yesterday: "Sometimes it's difficult for him. He's young but he's a fantastic player and the team need him. It takes time because football here is not the same as in Italy. I feel sorry for him because he had a long-term injury. When you have been out for a while it's not easy. He wants to play, score and give enjoyment to the fans."
It was an accurate assessment. Balotelli is a young man in a hurry to make his mark in English football, though his own haste has been an impediment to progress in a season blighted by his knee ligament damage. Patience and self-discipline have been needed during Balotelli's rehabilitation from the injury though these are qualities the striker is taking time to learn. Privately, Mancini is more frustrated by the time it has taken Balotelli's knee to heal than he has revealed publicly.
The manager's frustration is borne of an awareness of what he can do. Balotelli is a more naturally talented striker than Edin Dzeko, though the Bosnian's demeanour looks more suited to quick adaptation and his partnership with Carlos Tevez was impressive on Sunday. Dzeko, signed from Wolfsburg, admitted yesterday that he is finding it hard to get used to the more lenient refereeing over physical contact that he perceives in the English game.
"The referees don't whistle for everything here – in the Bundesliga every small contact is a foul. I hope I can get used to it, and have to get stronger. In some situations in Germany where I am not so strong it is no problem but in England ... you have to fight for every ball. I am OK mentally. When I don't score for two or three games and then lose the ball I always keep my head up."
Yaya Touré also sounded like another man in a hurry yesterday when he suggested that though his side did not yet bear comparison with Barcelona they could eclipse them within two years. "At the moment you cannot compare Barcelona with City because Barça are at the top and have top quality players: Messi, Xavi, Iniesta, Dani Alves, they are fantastic," Touré said. "But we are still signing new players and in a couple of years we could maybe be better than Barcelona. We need to continue to work hard."
Touré's comments came in the course of a discussion comparing Tevez and Lionel Messi as the fulcrums of the respective sides, though the Ivorian does not concur with a view expressed by his brother, Kolo, that Tevez is City's Lionel Messi. "I think I know what he means," Touré said. "I don't think you can compare him with Messi though. Messi can beat two or three players at any moment. Even when he's quiet he's still dangerous."
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