We are currently trialling our new-look independent.co.uk website - please send any feedback to beta@independent.co.uk

Premier League

I know what Mario Balotelli is going through, says Carlos Tevez

Argentine using own experience to help his troubled Manchester City team-mate

Carlos Tevez, the most vilified player of last season, is attempting to use his experiences to help Mario Balotelli.

This time last year, Tevez was exiled from English football in Argentina and was widely expected to leave Manchester City after he refused to warm up as a substitute against Bayern Munich.

On Saturday, however, it was Tevez drinking in the applause at the Etihad Stadium as his free-kick crashed into the back of the Watford net.

With Manchester City's joint-top scorer, Sergio Aguero, in Italy receiving treatment for a torn hamstring that is likely to keep him out for several more weeks, Tevez is pivotal to the club's attempt to retain its title. Whether Balotelli will be is less certain.

Balotelli, who made headlines worldwide when he fought with his manager, Roberto Mancini, at training last Thursday, played the final 20 minutes of the 3-0 win over Gianfranco Zola's side that saw City comfortably into the fourth round of the FA Cup, where they will travel to either Stoke or Crystal Palace.

"I have tried to help him," Tevez said. "I have talked to him on and off the pitch.

"I talked to him just before we took a free-kick and I let him take it just so he could improve his confidence.

"I have been where he is now, so I know how it is and am always keen to help him through those moments. These kinds of things have happened at all the clubs I have been at.

"However, here at Manchester City the spotlight is always on us and always on Roberto and Mario, so it always makes the news. But this kind of thing happens everywhere."

At the end of the match, Balotelli, who had not played since the Manchester derby on December 9, went over to embrace Zola, who had briefly managed him for the Italian Under-21 side.

In terms of attitude and professionalism, it would be hard to find two footballers less alike than Balotelli and Zola, who in his glorious time at Chelsea managed to avoid strip clubs, paternity suits and public rows with his teammates.

Nevertheless, Zola believes Balotelli is not a lost cause. "It is all about finding the right buttons to push," he said.

"I don't know if Manchester City want to persevere with him or not, but what I can say is that it is a pity that such a young player with so much potential is having a rough time," the Watford manager said. "That's what concerns me because I know the boy and I know the potential he has. I would love to see him shining a little bit more.

"His football skills can only benefit him if he has a little more self-control. That's what Mario needs to work on," Zoal said.

"He can be worked on. You can see his talent. He is a striker who has football intelligence, physique, two good feet and is cool in front of the goalkeeper. I think he has everything."

Zola's understanding of the test facing Mancini was clear: "Would I like to be his manager? It would be a challenge for me; that's for sure. It would force me to be creative."