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Sunday 26 March 2017

Mancini 'ready' for Italy return amid Juve rumours

Chris Brerton

IF Manchester City do not get into that fourth Champions League qualification spot at the end of the season, manager Roberto Mancini is expected to get the sack. However, he may well be trying to save City the job of telling him to clear his desk after admitting a desire to return to manage in Italy, with Juventus his favoured destination.

The former Internazionale manager was first linked a month ago with Juventus, who have won just four of their 10 Serie A games played under manager Alberto Zaccheroni after the sacking of Ciro Ferrara in January.

Mancini dismissed the initial speculation but there is little doubt that he is now giving the idea of returning to his homeland some serious thought.

"I'm ready to go back, if and when there will be a possibility," he said. "As for Juventus, Juve is always Juve. They are going through a difficult period right now but we are talking about a club with history and prestige, made up of many victories.

"How near I am to a return to Italy I don't know," he added. "Football is strange. It was probably right for me to broaden my horizons, but I will return sooner or later."

City face relegation threatened Burnley at Turf Moor in today's evening kick-off, looking to close the two-point gap to Tottenham in fourth, with Mancini telling the club's fans to forget any lingering hopes they may have of seeing Patrick Vieira in full flight this season.

The City manager delivered a swift answer at his media briefing about whether the Premier League will ever again witness the same Vieira who produced nine years of exemplary service at Arsenal before joining Juventus in 2005.

"Probably not," was Mancini's sharp response, appearing to confirm the suspicions of many of those who have watched Vieira play since he joined City on a six-month deal from Internazionale in January.

The midfielder was not able to play until the beginning of February due to a calf injury suffered in his final game for Inter and then had to serve a three-match suspension following an off-the-ball incident with Glenn Whelan during a Premier League game at Stoke that escaped the attention of referee Alan Wiley.

It would be churlish to suggest Vieira is a spent force, but he is clearly not the same player who helped Arsenal to three Premier League titles and four FA Cups. (© Independent News Service)

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