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Mancini left fuming over Balotelli's training cig

ROBERTO MANCINI and Mario Balotelli were involved in a furious training ground bust-up after the controversial striker was caught smoking in the dressing room area.

The duo were involved in a blazing row in front of Balotelli's team-mates and coaching staff after Mancini took exception to the Italian striker's antics at City's Carrington training ground.

Tension between the pair is believed to have heightened in recent weeks due to the increased pressure of the title race and Balotelli's slump in goal-scoring form in 2012.

Mancini had told the eccentric striker to kick the habit, but the issue finally came to a head when the City boss learned that Balotelli had been smoking on match days at the Etihad Stadium.

The £24million Manchester City striker had jetted in from Italy after bizarrely crashing an Inter Milan press conference on Tuesday.

Balotelli, who was fined £120,000 earlier this month after he was pictured outside a Liverpool strip club just 36 hours before City's clash with Bolton, has scored just four goals in his last 13 appearances.

City officials dismissed the spat as simply another example of Mancini's demand for high standards. Balotelli has twice been pictured scrapping with team-mates at training since arriving from Inter Milan in Aug 2010, with Jerome Boateng and Micah Richards on the receiving end.