Mario Balotelli’s fractious relationship with Manchester City is set to lead to his departure next month after it emerged that the Italian had turned to the Premier League to overturn a £340,000 club fine for repeatedly poor on-field discipline.
The 22 year-old will appear before an independent two-man panel at a Premier League tribunal on Wednesday following City's decision to reject his appeal against the fine, which was imposed as a result of the forward missing 11 of the club’s 54 games last season through suspension.
Balotelli, a £24 million signing from Inter Milan in July 2010, missed more than 20 per cent of City’s competitive fixtures last term, three in the Champions League, two in the Carling Cup and six in the Premier League.
Missing such a high proportion of games led to a fine of two weeks’ wages for misconduct. Attempts to contact the Professional Footballers’ Association last night to ascertain whether it is supporting Balotelli in the case were unsuccessful.
Balotelli, who was dropped by manager Roberto Mancini for Saturday’s 3-1 victory at Newcastle, has taken his case to the Premier League following his unsuccessful internal appeal against the penalty last month. The appeal was rejected by a two-man independent executive board.
It is understood that City began the process of disciplining Balotelli before the start of the season because of growing exasperation within the club’s Abu Dhabi hierarchy over the striker’s conduct.
The City manager’s assertion came with the full backing of the club’s owners who, mindful of the potential damage caused by the negativity around Balotelli, were keen to sell the player during the summer.
However, Balotelli was restored to the squad before the end of last season, making a key contribution to the club’s title success by creating the winning goal for Sergio Agüero during the 3-2 victory against Queens Park Rangers on the final day.
City rejected a bid for Balotelli from Paris St-Germain during the summer, but the player has fallen out of favour this season, with Mancini selecting him to start only eight games in all competitions.
Having surprisingly started with Balotelli against Manchester United last week, Mancini admitted following the game at Newcastle that his decision to omit him from the squad on Tyneside was – not for the first time this season – based on his poor performances in training.
Mancini said: “At this moment, Mario is not in good form and for this reason he is at home. It is only for this reason. To get back into the team he needs to work in training and when he plays, he needs to play well.
“I’m used to talking about Mario every day. I have to talk about him every day and I am not frustrated about that. But I am frustrated in that I would like Mario to play well because he has great quality.
“He still has a big part to play this season, absolutely, because he is a good player and a huge talent with good quality and a good technique. But it is important that he puts all these things on the pitch.”
Despite Mancini’s claims, it is understood that the club will listen to offers for Balotelli next month, with AC Milan keen to sign him.
The player’s decision to go to the Premier League to contest City’s disciplinary measures highlights his increasingly isolated position at the Etihad Stadium.
Carlos Tévez’s return to favour at the club last season, following his lengthy dispute with the club after his refusal to warm-up against Bayern Munich, at least emphasised that Mancini was prepared to be pragmatic with players who have challenged his and the club’s authority.
But, while Tévez dropped plans to challenge a substantial club fine at a Premier League tribunal, Balotelli appears determined to follow through his defiant stance. The outcome is unlikely to alter the club’s position on his availability for transfer.
Meanwhile, City have declined to comment on allegations that Serbian defender Aleksandar Kolarov was involved in an altercation with Newcastle supporters waving an Albanian flag on Saturday.
Northumbria Police has confirmed that it is investigating a complaint of racist language being used in the incident.
Mario’s crime sheet
11 Games missed through suspension last season
City 1 Dynamo Kiev 0
Dismissed for planting his studs on Goran Popov. Given a four-match ban by Uefa, which saw him miss City’s first three Champions League games in 2011-12.
Liverpool 1 City 1
The Italian was sent off for two yellow cards within 18 minutes of coming on as a substitute. The second came after he caught Martin Skrtel with his elbow.
City 3 Tottenham 2
Arsenal 1 City 0
Earned a three-match ban for his sending-off for two bookings. His second yellow came for a needless foul on Bacary Sagna.
Mark Ogden, Telegraph.co.uk