The pair enjoyed a factitious relationship at the Etihad which came to a head when they were pictured squaring up to one another during a routine training session during Mancini’s final season in charge of the Manchester club.
Speaking to French newspaper L'Equipe, Mancini, out of work since leaving Inter Milan for a second time, said: “In a training session, I said to players not to make stupid tackles on Gael Clichy because he was just coming back from injury.
“And then, Mario made a strong tackle on him. I was furious. I grabbed him by the collar wanting to push him but he is so strong physically I couldn't move him. From seeing the pictures, you would think that we came to blows but nothing happened.
“He came into conflict with some team-mates because of his behaviour, and he wanted to return to Italy. I was disappointed that he wanted to leave because he should have done so much more in an extraordinary championship.”
Balotelli’s career nose dived in the years that followed and, following spells with AC Milan and Liverpool, the 26-year-old appears to be finally restoring his reputation with Nice.
Mancini added: “If Mario today doesn't play for the Italy side, it is his fault. It is incredible that he is not the starting centre-forward for his national side.
“He is the best Italian striker of the last few years. I hope Mario understands that he has to have a different attitude and think only about football. It is not that difficult.”Reuse content