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Balotelli agent warns City star could leave England

Mario Balotelli may "think of leaving England" if the English FA fail to protect the Manchester City star following his alleged stamp on Scott Parker, according to Mino Raiola, the controversial forward's agent.

Raiola, who labelled World Cup referee Howard Webb as a "coward" for telling the FA that he would have dismissed Balotelli during Sunday's 3-2 win against Tottenham had he seen the incident with Parker, has admitted for the first time that the huge focus on the 21-year-old Italian could force to him to consider a move away from City.

City are expected to forego an appeal against Balotelli's violent conduct charge today, with the club fearing that any such move would be doomed to failure. As a result, Balotelli will be banned for four games after being charged retrospectively by the FA.

But Raiola has launched a passionate defence of his client, claiming that he will seek a move for the former Inter Milan striker if he believes he needs to escape the pressure-cooker atmosphere of the Premier League.

"The FA must defend Balotelli, otherwise he may think of leaving England," Raiola said. "In the Premier League there are absurd regulations. I talked to Mario, who said he is happy to stay in England. But he does not understand certain things and they sadden him.

"I do not believe there is a persecution against Balotelli. I want to be balanced and think it through. But if I discover that there is something strange, I have a duty to protect him and take him away. In that case I would speak with City, give the price-tag and look for the team best for him."

Both City and Raiola share a sense that Balotelli has been punished unfairly following Webb's admission to the FA that he would have acted at the time of the incident had he seen it. And Raiola was scathing of Webb by rejecting his claim that he did not see the alleged stamp.

"I find it very strange that Mr Webb can really claim that he didn't see," Raiola said. "He's clearly looking at the action and is only one and a half metres away from it. The question we're asking is what did he see? What's he looking at?

"We don't believe that he didn't see it. The referee proved himself to be a coward and certainly not a great referee. If a referee says he saw everything from one metre away and then he declares he didn't see anything only after the press and (Harry) Redknapp pushed him, he's a coward.

"If he did not change his mind the TV proof would not be accepted. I'm really mad with the English FA. They should send this referee to an optician. If you don't see anything from one metre away, what are you going to see on a pitch? I don't know if he saw mouse on the field. What's he looking at?

"Mario didn't do anything on purpose, he was pushed off balance. I want to be balanced but I'm worried because, when English players are involved in more serious things, nothing happens, whereas when foreigners are involved, such as Balotelli or (Vincent) Kompany, they are treated harder."

Manchester City have been angered by what they perceive to be inconsistencies within the FA's disciplinary process, with City coach David Platt also placing the spotlight on Webb by suggesting he saw the incident involving Balotelli and Parker.

"It's my opinion that Howard saw the incident and I'm not questioning him," Platt said. "If he hasn't, and that's what he's said, then he hasn't and we have to take that at face value. But if I follow that to its logical conclusion, then I have to take Mario's claim that he didn't do it intentionally at face value as well.

"I've seen it (incident) now and, whichever way you look at it, when you slow it down to all its angles, it doesn't look good when you put it in super slow-motion. But I've seen it from an angle that's good enough to show that I think the referee can see it live, like I saw it live.

"You have to take a lot more things into consideration even if you do want to go for an appeal because there's a sanction in place that they can further the suspension if they consider it to be a frivolous appeal.

"It's against you to win it in the first place, therefore the likelihood is that we'll be without Mario for the next four games."

Platt refused to be drawn on suggestions that the FA's decision to appeal Wayne Rooney's three-match international ban after being sent off for kicking an opponent against Montenegro last October compromised the governing body's ability to regard appeals as frivolous.

Platt said: "It's futile me complaining about a system, us complaining about a system or us looking at inconsistencies." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent