Manchester City's Mario Balotelli last night said, "I am not a villain or a violent player", after accepting a four-match ban which will keep him out of his club's push for the Premier League title until late next month.
"I have accepted the ban because I couldn't prove my innocence," Balotelli said. "But I'm not a villain or violent." The 21-year-old said his apparent stamp in last Sunday's Premier League victory over Tottenham Hotspur, which left Scott Parker with a cut to his face, was unintentional. "I didn't try to [place my] heel [on] Parker," Balotelli added.
City's decision to forego an appeal was based on the conclusion that there was next to no chance of success, given that Vincent Kompany did not appeal in a less clear-cut case after his red card against Manchester United this month. Though this meant that the striker was unavailable for the Carling Cup semi-final second leg against Liverpool, he will miss Premier League fixtures that City will consider winnable – Everton, Fulham and Aston Villa – before being available for City's challenging return to European competition, in the Europa League against Porto, who are undefeated in Portugal's Primeira Liga.
Balotelli's suspension has deepened his despondency about aspects of the English game and further highlighted a susceptible temperament which players may seek to exploit. His future beyond the end of the season is in some doubt, though privately Roberto Mancini is convinced that the player's loyalty to him will enable him to overcome his latest setback in the Premier League.
Mancini's desire to be rid of Carlos Tevez – having said last Friday that it was "impossible" to offer him another game for City – appeared to hinge last night on Milan making an offer to the club's satisfaction, after Internazionale yesterday said they were no longer interested.
Internazionale board member Marco Tronchetti Provera said: "Now we're no longer interested in Tevez. He is following a different path. Inter have recovered their champions and there is no need to have him or another, even if Tevez remains a champion."
Though an attempt to re-engineer last summer's putative move to Argentina's Boca Juniors cannot be ruled out, the options are running out for Tevez. Some hopes are retained that Milan may return to the table yet despite personal terms having been agreed between the club, Tevez and his agent Kia Joorabchian, there has been no indication that the club are willing to improve on the loan offer which is not to City's satisfaction. The prospects of talks resuming will not have been improved by City's criticism of Milan, whom they advised on Tuesday to "stop congratulating one another and begin to look on how they would meet our terms".
City are resigned to the fact that they will secure only about £25m for Tevez and while they are prepared to see him spending the rest of the season at San Siro on loan with a guarantee of a permanent transfer to Milan, chairman Khaldoon al-Mubarak would still demand £25m as an absolute minimum. The only club who covet Tevez and also have the resources to pay his wages are the Qatari-backed Paris St-Germain, though talks between the club and Joorabchian foundered after fewer than four hours on Friday.