Belfast Telegraph

Friday 22 August 2014

Mancini refutes Balotelli exit talk

Mario Balotelli missed four games with a virus prior to his appearance against Watford

Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini has once again attempted to quash rumours linking controversial striker Mario Balotelli with a move back to Italy.

Balotelli's future has been the subject of much speculation due to his fringe role this season as well as a training ground bust-up with Mancini last week.

Mancini, who has has repeatedly backed Balotelli throughout a long line of controversies, immediately played down the confrontation in last Friday's press conference and insisted he was prepared to give his fellow Italian "another 100 chances" at the club.

That has not stopped reports from suggesting AC Milan are willing to give Balotelli a way out of Eastlands in the January transfer window but Mancini was indignant when asked about the latest transfer speculation. "No, it is not true. I am very, very happy (with Mario)," he said.

Former club Inter Milan have waded into the equation, with sporting director Piero Ausilio claiming they have first refusal on Balotelli, who moved from the San Siro to City in August 2010.

"The right of first refusal is there," Ausilio told Italian magazine Panorama. "If Inter decide to exercise it, it will be a choice that will be made if City should decide to sell him. Balotelli technically can fit alongside any attacker."

Balotelli had missed four games with a virus prior to his return as a substitute against Watford in the FA Cup last week. He made a surprise appearance for City's Under-21s on Monday and scored two goals in a friendly against Blackburn, while the 22-year-old has also dyed his hair blond this week.

Asked if this was a fresh start for Balotelli, Mancini said: "Next question! No, I hope. He went with the under-21s because he needed a game. After 40 days without a game, he needed one game. He trained well and I hope this year will be different."

Meanwhile, Mancini hopes to have striker Sergio Aguero back in his side for next week's clash with Fulham. The Argentinian remains on the sidelines for this weekend's trip to Arsenal after tearing a hamstring in the New Year's Day win over Stoke at the Etihad Stadium.

There has been speculation the 24-year-old could be out for several weeks but the club have not put a firm date on his potential comeback. Mancini said: "Sergio is not available for Sunday. We don't want to take a risk. He continues to have treatment this week. I hope he can play against Fulham next game. If Arsenal was the last game (of the season), okay, but like this it is impossible."

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