Belfast Telegraph

Mario Balotelli is new Eric Cantona, says Roberto Mancini

Roberto Mancini has made the bold claim that his young striker Mario Balotelli can within two years be as powerful a force in force in world football as Eric Cantona, Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney have been.

The 20-year-old has his latest chance to force his identity on the Premier League today, having completed the three-match ban that has further frustrated his introduction.

Mancini, who is tempted to start with him at Stoke City, insisted that his temperamental issues are his only impediment.

“There are a few players in the past like him,” Mancini said.

“Cantona, Ronaldo, Rooney. I think if Mario thinks very well and changes his character — maybe not all of his character because it is difficult — then if he wants to, he will be one of the top players in the next one or two years.”

Balotelli's straight red at West Bromwich Albion, for a hack at Youssouf Mulumbu, means he has still only had two City starts and in only one of his four appearances has he received neither a yellow nor red.

Mancini intends to speak to Balotelli about the fact that opposition players will seek to capitalise on the perceived mental weakness by attempting to wind him up.

“I think we are all different,” the manager said.

“Maybe when you are 20-years-old your behaviour is not perfect every day. My behaviour wasn't perfect every day when I was at that age. But this is normal.

“He must just understand that he must show different behaviour on the pitch. I think after three, four or five games he'll understand that if he shows good behaviour on the pitch and doesn't argue with the referee it will make a difference.” Joe Hart said: “His English is brilliant; a lot better than [we] expected it to be.”

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