Belfast Telegraph

Balotelli grateful to Mancini

Mario Balotelli says the unswerving support of Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini has been key to his improved performances this season.

Balotelli has shone in the opening weeks of this campaign, scoring four goals in four games and demonstrating a calmer demeanour than in the past. Mancini was responsible for bringing the raw Balotelli through the ranks when coach of Inter, and the striker admits his compatriot was for a long time his only ally in England.

"With Mancini I feel very comfortable," the 21-year-old told a number of national newspapers. "I've known him a long time and he's a good manager. He believed in me. Even when no one in England believed in me, he did. And he kept on believing in me. I want to do something important here with him."

Balotelli added that changes in his lifestyle away from the pitch have also contributed to his better displays.

"I changed things in my life," he said. "I don't live in town any more. I'm outside now so it's more quiet. Maybe I'll stay in now with my family, my brother or girlfriend. They weren't here last year.

"It's quieter now but also I am growing up. If last year I missed home so much, maybe now I miss it a little bit less. I'm okay now, I'm good. I'm happy."

This weekend's Manchester derby could provide another major test for Balotelli's improved temperament, but the striker insists there is no prospect of a grudge meeting with United defender Rio Ferdinand.

Balotelli upset Ferdinand with his perceived over-celebration of City's FA Cup semi-final victory over United in April, but the Italian said: "I didn't even speak to him.

"I don't have anything against him. I just celebrated. I showed him the shirt of City. Obviously, he got angry with me, but for me what happened on the pitch stayed on the pitch.

"Now we are friends like before. Or we respect each other, anyway. I'm going to give him the handshake before the game, like I give to everyone. He's a great player."

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