Mancini plays down Balotelli 'fight'
Roberto Mancini has played down yesterday's controversial bust-up between himself and Mario Balotelli, claiming the incident was “nothing special”.
Pictures taken at City's Carrington training ground emerged showing the manager entering into an extraordinary shoving match with his striker.
The incident sparked when Mancini took exception to a challenge from Balotelli on team-mate Scott Sinclair. Mancini ordered the striker to leave the training ground and when he refused Mancini tried unsuccessfully to force him by dragging him away.
Eventually the two were separated by coaches Brian Kidd and Massimo Battara and the player belatedly went in to change.
Immediately there were suggestions that the incident could lead to Balotelli's departure from Manchester City, however Mancini has played down the episode.
"I think the photos show the worst of what happened," Mancini said in a pre-arranged press conference to preview City's FA Cup tie with Watford.
"It was nothing special. There was no fight, this was not true."
Mancini went on to explain how the events unfolded, suggesting he only lost his temper for a moment.
"We were playing a game and Mario kicked his team-mate.
"I said to him, 'Go inside, leave the pitch'. He said no and I took his shirt and pushed him out of the pitch.
"This is what really happened, nothing special."
When asked if he lost his temper, Mancini said: "No, no. For two seconds, yes - during three or four seconds because he didn't want to leave the pitch.
"He can't do this against no one, but then it was finished."
Mancini has been one of Balotelli's most fervent supporters, standing by the 22-year-old despite a string of on and off field incidents since the player joined from Inter Milan in 2010.
Some felt this could be the last straw by Mancini has forgiven his player and said he will give him many more chances.
"I will give him another 100 chances if possible, if I think he can change. I am here for this.
"Sometimes I am upset with him because he doesn't everything for this, but I give him another chance, sure.
"He is 22 and he can do a mistake."
When asked if Balotelli would face any disciplinary action, Mancini said: "No, no. This doesn't change my thoughts. This is something that can happen.
"Usually it is between two players. It is different because I wanted him to leave the pitch after what he did."
Balotelli has not played for City since the disappointing derby loss to Manchester United on December 9, when he headed straight down the tunnel after being substituted.
He was dropped for the next match at Newcastle and it emerged soon after that Balotelli was planning to take the club to a Premier League tribunal in a dispute over an internal fine.
He dropped that challenge but his since missed the last four games due to a virus.
When asked if Balotelli could start against Watford, Balotelli said: "No, he trained only four times this week. Not in the starting line-up, maybe on the bench.
"I spoke with Mario yesterday after training, I speak with him always.
"It is not easy to manage him and we can talk about him, but my thoughts about him don't change."