Injury rules out striker Balotelli for six weeks

Manchester City's hopes of getting their Premier League campaign quickly back into gear were dealt a serious blow last night when it emerged that the £22m striker Mario Balotelli requires knee surgery and will be missing for six weeks.

City, whose progress in new contract talks with goalkeeper Joe Hart will not begin in earnest until the return from holiday of the club's football administrator, Brian Marwood, had initially said that the injury sustained by Balotelli on his debut away to Timisoara of Romania last month was not serious.

But damage to the lateral meniscus, a crucial structure in the knee, has not healed naturally as had been expected and when Balotelli increased his recovery programme this week it became clear that an operation will be needed. The 20-year-old has already flown back to Milan ahead of surgery and is likely to miss the home games against Chelsea and Arsenal, as well as the visit of his former club Juventus in the second of City's Europa League group-stage fixtures.

City appeared more relaxed yesterday about contract talks which could see Hart become one of the best paid goalkeepers in the Premier League if a salary of £70,000-a-week is agreed. He has three years to run on his current deal.

Carlos Tevez has indicated he has had enough of international football, despite scoring in Argentina's 4-1 win against world champions Spain in Buenos Aires on Tuesday. "Every day I feel further away from the national team. I don't know if I'll go to the 2014 World Cup, because I don't know if I'll be able to prepare as I did for 2010. It's one thing to say it, but I don't know if I have the balls to go through with it. I'm tired. Tired of always being [there], of fighting [to be in the team]. There comes a time when your body starts to drag you down." City face Blackburn on home on Saturday.

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