Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 December 2014

Manchester City bring looper Mario Balotelli to heel

Mario Balotelli
Mario Balotelli

Manchester City midfielder James Milner hopes team-mate Mario Balotelli will emerge wiser from his latest brush with controversy.

Balotelli was warned about his future behaviour by City boss Roberto Mancini after he hauled the striker off for showboating in the Blues' friendly with LA Galaxy on Sunday night, the final match of their United States tour.

The 20-year-old had already put City ahead with a penalty following a foul on Micah Richards when the bizarre incident occurred around the half-hour mark.

Balotelli was sent clear of the home defence, but instead of attempting to score normally, he tried a complicated pivot and backheel which resulted in the ball rolling wide.

Mancini was clearly furious and substituted Balotelli moments later before sharing a few heated words with his fellow Italian.

"I hope this is a lesson for him," Mancini said after the match, which City won 7-6 on penalties after it ended 1-1 in normal time.

"In football you always need to be professional, always serious and in this moment he wasn't professional."

Milner, who came on for Balotelli, had similar thoughts on the matter.

"I think he has shown since he has been here that he has got great potential, but he is still young and still learning," said Milner from the States.

"Hopefully he will get better and maybe learn from these sorts of experiences."

Milner would not be drawn on whether he felt Balotelli's actions had been disrespectful, but added: "Obviously we'd like him to put that in the back of the net, but Mario is Mario and he does some strange things sometimes."

Mancini was keen to draw a line under the episode.

"Mario is young, I want to help him and that is the end of it," he added.

"To take him off after 30 minutes was enough punishment. It won't have been easy for him but it has to be a lesson.

"I hope this is a lesson for him. In football you always need to be professional, always serious and in this moment he wasn't professional.

"If you are serious, you can play 90 minutes. If not, you can come and sit by me on the bench."

David Beckham, who was in the Galaxy side, tried to defend Balotelli.

"I was surprised at first but I have watched it back a few times and from his mannerisms I believe he thought he was offside," said the former England skipper.

"But it doesn't matter whether you think it was offside or not. You have to be professional and score the goal.

"There are a lot of young kids watching these teams and great players who come out here."

It now seems there will be no further action taken against Balotelli, who has frequently courted controversy since joining City from Inter Milan last summer.

He was sent off at West Brom in November and received another red card against Dynamo Kiev in a last-16 Europa League tie which Mancini branded "stupid".

The player raised further eyebrows when he accepted the Golden Boy award and declared of the previous winners that the only one who was a "little bit" better than him was Lionel Messi.

He did not turn up for an end-of-season trophy parade - even though he was named man-of-the-match as City defeated Stoke in the FA Cup final at Wembley.

He has also been pictured showing off a T-shirt of questionable taste, which was condemned by the Damilola Taylor Trust.

Sunday's indiscretion comes at a time when City, who returned to England from the United States yesterday afternoon, have an unhappy roster of forwards on their books.

The future of Carlos Tevez remains uncertain following the breakdown of his transfer to Corinthians and the Blues' relations with Emmanuel Adebayor and Craig Bellamy appear to be at an all-time low.

Mancini should soon have more options in attack, though, with City looking to swiftly tie up a deal for Atletico Madrid frontman Sergio Aguero.

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