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Friday 9 December 2016

Balotelli told to grow up and give City title impetus

Henry Winter

Published 07/08/2011 | 05:00

If Manchester City are to locate the cutting edge to shred the recent title duopoly of Manchester United and Chelsea then they need Sergio Aguero to settle in and Mario Balotelli to settle down. Balotelli should start against United in this afternoon's Community Shield while Aguero, City's gifted summer signing, appears from the bench.

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With Carlos Tevez tipped to leave for Inter Milan -- though he is expected to report for training tomorrow -- and Edin Dzeko still struggling to adapt to the pace of the Premier League, the form of Aguero and Balotelli could define City's season.

So much is in place. A good goalkeeper in Joe Hart is protected by a solid defence marshaled superbly by Vincent Kompany. Nigel de Jong, the bad tackles apart, bolts midfield together while David Silva and Yaya Toure roam upfield productively.

It is now simply that strike-force, that front-line that needs to be right to make City serious contenders for the Premier League. "To win the title we need to score more than last year,'' said manager Roberto Mancini.

Aguero and Balotelli are contrasting characters, and Mancini should be given little grief by the newly arrived Argentine. It is Balotelli, a potential matchwinner, who causes concern for his remarks about homesickness, a fondness for AC Milan and a critique of local life that is unlikely to appear on the Manchester Tourist Board website.

The last time Balotelli faced United at Wembley he delivered a typical display: troubling defenders with his pace and power and then having a row with Rio Ferdinand after the final whistle had blown on City's FA Cup semi-final success. "That is because he is young,'' shrugged Mancini. City's manager has invested much time, energy and faith in his compatriot, whose early years he oversaw at Inter.

He understands the complex nature of a player who misses his adoptive parents and his sister, who works in television in London. Mancini likes Balotelli, a popular character around the club despite assorted travails.

Even after expressing his anger with Balotelli's injudicious showboating in the United States, Mancini remained supportive.

"When I was a player we were mentally stronger than they are now,'' added Mancini. "We were hungry then, we had less money and we wanted to become top players and we were prepared to give up everything for this. We were serious. When I was young, 17 or 18, I made mistakes -- like you. But when you are 20 it is time that you change because a player's career is not long -- 10 or 12 years. It is important that Mario understands this.

"Mario has everything to become a top player but he is young and we need to accept that inexperience sometimes. He understands that he needs to improve his behaviour. I have known him since he was at Inter. He was better then!

"Off the field he sometimes does incredible behaviour. On the pitch sometimes he doesn't think."

Mancini paused and then delivered his verdict on Balotelli the striker. "I think Mario is one of the top players in the world."

Aguero is more established in the international firmament, having impressed with Argentina, not least in front of goal during an otherwise disappointing Copa America for his country this summer. "Aguero can play any position -- he can be the main striker, he can play behind the striker, he can play left or right,'' said Mancini. "In one or two years he can become a first striker (up top). He is not tall but he is quick and strong and he can score a lot of goals. Now he can play behind Dzeko, Carlos or Mario."

If Mancini sees Aguero as more of a No 10 than No 9 for now, Balotelli's state of mind becomes even more important. Deploying Aguero behind Balotelli seems Mancini's plan (unless Dzeko comes good or Tevez stays). Any others? "Bellamy and Adebayor are not part of my plans,'' Mancini added. "They are out of my squad and the list for the Champions League".

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