Mancini: 'Mario was like another of my children'
Roberto Mancini knows Mario Balotelli’s departure could harm Manchester City’s title hopes but believes the move to AC Milan is what the forward needs.
The 22-year-old Italian will today have a medical with the Serie A giants as he prepares to return to his homeland after two and a half years in the north west.
The move will cost Milan around £20m and Mancini is aware of the adverse affect it could have on his side’s chances of retaining the title.
City were yesterday held to a 0-0 draw by bottom-of-the-table QPR, meaning leaders Manchester United could go seven points clear with a win against Southampton tonight.
“It is difficult because I lost one important striker and that could be important in the next 14 games,” Mancini said.
“But it is important for Mario – to be back in Italy, back with his family and to play for Milan. Milan started to talk to Manchester City in the last two days and they are very close. This is for Mario because we love Mario and he deserves to have this chance.”
The move will end a remarkable stay at the Etihad Stadium, which saw almost as many headlines for off-field incidents as success on it.
Through most of the controversy, Mancini has stood by a player to whom he has paid special attention since they were together at Inter Milan.
Asked if Balotelli has become too hard to manage, Mancini said: “No, no, no, not for me. For me, Mario was like another of my children. Mario is this but you can be upset with him sometimes.
“The club told me they had this from Milan. I spoke with Mario and I think he wanted this. I think for him after three years in England to come back to Italy will be good for him.”
Mancini believes Balotelli has done “very well” in his time with City, but conceded this season has proved more difficult.
That said, the City boss believes he can become one of the best players in the world.
“We are also so sad because Mario was an important player for us,” Mancini added. “He is a fantastic player but I think for him this could an important chance to go back to Italy and play for another top club like Milan.
“I hope he can continue to improve because he can become one of the world’s best players.”
Why always me? The Balotelli controversies
Striker Mario Balotelli was today expected to leave Manchester City after a deal was struck for the Italian to join AC Milan.
Here, Press Association Sport takes a look at some more of Balotelli’s on and off-field incidents since his arrival in English football.
Car crash (August 2010)
Just days after signing for City, Balotelli hits the headlines after crashing his Audi R8 en route to the club’s training ground. Balotelli is found to be carrying £5,000 in cash at the time of the accident and when police ask why, he reportedly replies: “Because I am rich.”
First red card (November 2010)
Balotelli scores his first Premier League goals in a 2-0 win at West Brom but the achievement is marred when he is sent off following a clash with Youssouf Mulumbu.
Wilshere snub (December 2010)
City boss Roberto Mancini says Balotelli must change his attitude following his claims he had never heard of Jack Wilshere after beating the Arsenal midfielder to FIFA’s Young Player of the Year award.
Dart-throwing incident (March 2011)
Balotelli again hits trouble after it emerges he threw a dart at a City youth team player. No one was hurt in the incident and he escapes punishment.
Second red card (March 2011)
Balotelli apologises to his team-mates after he is sent off during a Europa League tie with Dynamo Kiev for a reckless challenge on Goran Popov.
Back-heel blunder (July 2011)
Balotelli is immediately substituted by an enraged Mancini after performing a pirouette and back-heeling wide when clean through on goal in a pre-season friendly against the Los Angeles Galaxy.
Firework incident (October 2011)
The Italian has another run-in with the emergency services after a firework is set off in the bathroom of his home, triggering a fire. The next day, he scores in the Manchester derby and celebrates by revealing a T-shirt which reads: “Why always me?”
Third red card (November 2011)
The third red card of Balotelli’s City career arrives in a league match against Liverpool, the 21-year-old dismissed for two yellow cards.
Breaking curfew (December 2011)
Balotelli breaks a club 48-hour curfew by visiting a curry house ahead of a match against Chelsea.
Richards clash (December 2011)
Just days after Balotelli’s curfew lapse, he again attracts negative headlines after pictures emerge of a training-ground bust-up with team-mate Micah Richards.
Parker clash (January 2012)
Balotelli is charged with violent conduct by the Football Association, and subsequently handed a four-match ban, after appearing to stamp on the head of Tottenham’s Scott Parker during a Premier League match.
Inter press conference (March 2012)
Balotelli gatecrashes the press conference to announce the appointment of Andrea Stramaccioni as Inter Milan’s new coach.
Fourth red card (April 2012)
Balotelli is sent off for two bookable challenges on Arsenal full-back Bacary Sagna. Also guilty of a shocking knee-high challenge on Gunners midfielder Alex Song.
Clash with Mancini (January 2013)
Balotelli clashes with Mancini during training with the pair pulled apart by coaches.