MANCHESTER City boss Roberto Mancini has warned Mario Balotelli's entire career could be over in two years after admitting he would "probably" sell the striker this summer.
Mancini feared Jose Mourinho's claim Balotelli was “unmanagable” would prove prophetic if the 21-year-old continues to be overcome by the kind of madness that got him sent off again in yesterday's 1-0 defeat at Arsenal.
The loss dealt what could prove a fatal blow to City's Barclays Premier League title hopes but could also be Balotelli's final appearance for the club.
Mancini said: “He needs to change his behaviour if he wants to continue to play.
“I saw in my life a lot of players like Mario that are fantastic, arrogant guys. But, after, they lose all their talent like this and they finish in two or three years.
“Mario is this way.”
He added: “He could be my son, and I understand when you are young, you can make some mistakes.
“Mario is a guy who's made mistakes. I hope for him, not me, that he can change.”
Balotelli's red card in the dying seconds earned him an automatic three-match ban but Mancini was expecting - and even encouraged - the Football Association to throw the book at the player for an earlier incident that went unpunished.
Balotelli got away with a knee-high challenge on Arsenal midfielder Alex Song that the FA are bound to punish retrospectively if referee Martin Atkinson confirms he and his assistants did not see it.
Theoretically, Balotelli could end up suspended for City's final six games, which look set to confirm them as runners up to Manchester United.
Mancini refused to throw in the towel, saying: “We need to do the maximum that we can do in the last month and after, in the end, we will see.
“I won one title where I was five points behind with five games to the end. This is football. Everything can happen, always. It is clear that we need to start to win.”
Yesterday’s defeat was witnessed by nonplussed City chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak, who must decide whether Mancini is the right man to take City to the promised land.
The Italian himself was “100%” sure he was.
“When I arrived, City were seventh or eighth,” he said. “After six months, we were fighting for the Champions League and lost against Tottenham one game from the end.
“Second year, we were in third position on goal difference from Chelsea and won the FA Cup. Today, we have 15 points more.
“When you start a project, it’s important that you improve.
“When you also work hard, you can pass by these difficult situations because you think that you can win the title. We were there for 28 games. But probably we need to improve.
“We need more experience, we need to change something. There are only two years that we worked here.”
Meanwhile, City last night denied rumours of a post-match punch-up in their dressing room yesterday.
A club spokesman said: “It is rubbish.”