Roberto Mancini eager to play down latest Mario Balotelli controversy

 

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The Independent Online

Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini may have laughed off the latest Mario Balotelli controversy but he wants the striker to stay out of the spotlight.

Balotelli is again the focus of media attention after a training ground bust-up with team-mate Micah Richards yesterday.

It is merely the latest in a long line of headline-making off-field incidents involving the unpredictable Italian, who in October revealed a T-shirt asking, 'Why Always Me?' after scoring against Manchester United.

Mancini said: "I asked him, 'Why always you?'

"He said it was because he didn't pass the ball to him. It was a really stupid thing, it was nothing. After 10 minutes it was finished.

"When you play a match eight versus eight and you are passionate, it can happen with every team. Not every week, but often.

"Mario and Micah were boxing, but they are like twins. They are very good friends.

"This has happened with Mario four times now - he is the king for this. But it has happened with other players.

"However, Mario should pay attention, not just about this, but in every situation.

"We are near Christmas, at the end of the year it is a very dangerous time for fireworks. It is better he stays in the hotel!"

Balotelli has been living in a hotel in Manchester city centre since the infamous incident in October when fireworks set off from the bathroom of his house sparked a blaze.

The 21-year-old courted more controversy last weekend when he was spotted out in the city in the early hours of Sunday morning - less than 48 hours before Monday's defeat at Chelsea - in contravention of a club curfew.

The latest incident is the fourth time Balotelli has been involved in a training ground clash after previous spats with Jerome Boateng, Vincent Kompany and Aleksandar Kolarov.

Despite these issues, Balotelli has prospered on the field and scored his 11th goal of the season in the 2-1 loss at Stamford Bridge.

That result, after Gael Clichy was sent off, ended City's unbeaten start to the Barclays Premier League season and left them just two points clear at the top of the table.

City have played some brilliant football this season, scoring 48 goals in 15 league games, but Mancini accepts the run had to end at some point.

He said: "Sooner or later this had to happen, what happened against Chelsea.

"With 10 players it was difficult and if we didn't only have 10, we wouldn't have lost.

"But that is it, this is football."

City now face a tough task to get back to winning ways as another of the league's big guns, Arsenal, visit the Etihad Stadium on Sunday.

The Gunners have hit a rich vein of form having won seven of their last eight matches while their talisman Robin van Persie is the league's top goalscorer with 15.

Mancini said: "Van Persie is an incredible player.

"He is like (Sergio) Aguero, (Edin) Dzeko, Mario - scoring a goal every game.

"At this moment he is very good, like Arsenal. At this moment they are playing very well."

For all their domestic dominance this season, City could be second come kick-off on Sunday if Manchester United beat QPR earlier in the day.

Mancini said: "At the moment, us, United and maybe Tottenham are the three teams that can fight for the title.

"But the season is long. Chelsea, Arsenal and, maybe, Liverpool could also try.

"The season is hard. We have a lot of games to play in the next 40 days."

Yaya Toure has been one of City's key players this term and Mancini wants to keep him as long as possible before he reports for African Nations Cup duty in January.

Ivory Coast could summon Yaya and his brother Kolo two weeks before their January 22 tournament opener but Mancini would like to delay their departure until after the Wigan clash on January 16.

Mancini said: "We hope he can remain here until Wigan if it is possible.

"If he gets to the final, he and Kolo will come back on February 12.

"For us it is a problem. I think if we are on the top when Yaya and Kolo come back, we can win the title."

One player who seems forgotten - for now - is Carlos Tevez, who remains in Argentina ahead of a possible January move.

Mancini said: "He is in Argentina playing golf, we are here.

"I need to think about our team. We need to sell him in January.

"I hope he can find a good solution for him because he is a good player."

PA

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