Manchester City’s Mario Balotelli has backed down from his decision to challenge a £340,000 club fine at a Premier League tribunal, in a final attempt to salvage his career at the club.
The Italian’s agent, Mino Raiola, said last night that the 22-year-old was determined to fix things with manager Roberto Mancini and a City coaching staff who are increasingly sceptical about the manager’s faith in him. But Balotelli’s career prospects at the club are hanging by a thread and the striker was persuaded that they would have been damaged irreparably had he allowed a QC to proceed yesterday with an appeal against the club’s decision to fine him two weeks’ wages.
It is understood that the change of heart, which came as the player’s Italian lawyers prepared to present his case to the London tribunal, was not a result of an 11th-hour intervention from Mancini, who has not been closely following the latest Balotelli controversy as it has played out. Instead, it was the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) who made it clear that bringing the case and winning it could have severe ramifications for him. It is understood that the substantial legal costs racked up by a case involving solicitors and barristers are to be met equally by player and club.
The PFA believed that Balotelli would have won the case against City, who went outside of disciplinary guidelines to claim that the player was in breach of contract last season because of his general disciplinary record. The guidelines only allow a player to be fined if he receives a sequence of yellow or red cards for either dissent or violent conduct, rather than a general sequence of cards. The players’ union made it clear to Balotelli that the accumulation of disciplinary points for those two proscribed offences would have entitled City to charge him more than two weeks’ wages, if they used the disciplinary guidelines as and when he committed those offences in the 2011-12 campaign. This argument might have been offered by City’s QC, if the case had proceeded.
City are vindicated for their punishment of a player who has brought their club into disrepute and missed 21.7 per cent of last season’s games through suspension. But it is understood that the PFA has pointed out to the club that they would be far better served operating within the guidelines agreed between the PFA, clubs and the Premier League, rather than going outside of those parameters, as they have in the cases of Balotelli and Carlos Tevez.
A joint statement issued between the club and his representatives was notable for Balotelli’s assertion that he had stood down “as a sign of respect for Roberto Mancini” – now his only ally at City. “After amicable talks between the parties, as a sign of respect for Roberto Mancini, the supporters and the club, Mario Balotelli has chosen to accept a two-week fine levied upon him by the club and withdraw his disciplinary appeal, which was due to be heard by a Premier League panel,” the statement read. “Mario remains available for selection for all forthcoming fixtures.”
Although the feeling in Italy is that Milan may seek to capitalise on the uncertainty surrounding Balotelli by making a low bid for him in January, the Serie A side may need to jettison either Robinho or Alexandre Pato. The Milan vice-president, Adriano Galliani, has confirmed that the club have received a bid for Pato, although he says he is keen to keep Robinho.
Raiola said yesterday: “Mario is committed to City. He doesn’t want to leave the club. He’s always wanted to stay and this [case] hasn’t changed this. He is committed in Manchester.”
With Mancini not even considering Balotelli for the side to play at Reading in two days’ time, he is also preparing to go through the Christmas period without Samir Nasri, who is expected to be out for two weeks with a groin injury suffered in last Saturday’s win at Newcastle United.