Mancini tells Balotelli to light up the title race, not cigarettes
Roberto Mancini has urged Mario Balotelli to focus on lighting up the title race rather than cigarettes after admitting the Manchester City forward has ignored his advice to quit smoking.
Balotelli, whose controversial 2011 has been a tale of rogue fireworks, darts thrown at youth-team players and a curfew-breaking curry, is set to begin 2012 by spearheading City's attempt to maintain their title push with a victory at Sunderland tomorrow.
The 21-year-old has become a key figure in City's pursuit of their first league title since 1968, scoring 11 goals in all competitions and softening the blow of Carlos Tevez's acrimonious absence from the first-team picture since he refused to warm up as a substitute during the Champions League defeat against Bayern Munich in September.
With Balotelli flourishing under Mancini at City, the manager admits that he has so far held back from banning the former Inter Milan forward from smoking.
"I told him (Balotelli), for me it's better that you don't smoke," Mancini said. "It's not a problem for me because I'm not his father or his mother. But if he was my son, I'd give him a kick up the ass.
"I am against cigarettes, always. For this reason, my son doesn't smoke, but there are players who smoke in Italy and also here.
"He doesn't smoke a lot of cigarettes, five or six a day, but I have told him (to stop). Maybe he uses the cigarettes to light his fireworks."
Mancini has confirmed his interest in signing Roma's midfielder Daniele de Rossi despite concerns that the 28-year-old's wages could be in the Carlos Tevez bracket. De Rossi could join for as little as £5m because he is out of contract this summer.
"De Rossi is a champion and would be the perfect man to improve City," Mancini told 'Gazzetta dello Sport'.
"If we get the right signals (from Roma), it is worth trying (to sign him). I would not be surprised if he stays in Rome. But if he doesn't sign, City will be ready." (© Daily Telegraph, London)
Mario Balotelli is just the latest in a long list of players to have smoked at the peak of their careers. These include former World Cup winner Zinedine Zidane, Argentina legend Diego Maradona and ex-Manchester United goalkeeper Fabien Barthez. The list also includes current England stars Ashley Cole and Wayne Rooney.
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