A CONTRITE Mario Balotelli has apologised for his extraordinary indiscipline in Sunday’s match against Arsenal and could still get the chance to redeem himself for Manchester City this season if he escapes a potential nine-game ban.
Balotelli is certain to miss Manchester City’s next three matches for his sending off at the Emirates on Sunday, with the Football Association also due to decide on Tuesday whether he will face a violent conduct charge for a separate studs-up lunge on Alex Song that went unpunished by referee Martin Atkinson.
That will depend on whether any of the match officials saw the incident but, as it happened so close to the touchline, it is expected that Atkinson will report that his assistant did have a clear view.
Roberto Mancini, the Manchester City manager, had said on Sunday that Balotelli would not play again this season but that was only on the premise of his wayward striker becoming ineligible because of an FA sanction. Balotelli will be considered for the final three games of the season if, as appears likely, the FA does not impose an extended ban.
There is, however, also the possibility that he would be ruled out for nine games. If Balotelli is charged by the FA with violent conduct, that would be treated as his fourth sending-off of the season, meaning that there would be an automatic three-match ban plus a further three matches for the previous dismissals.
Mancini has said that he would “probably” try to sell Balotelli this summer and alluded to the “big problems” the 21 year-old had caused this season.
Balotelli was photographed at Manchester City’s Carrington training base on Monday after reporting for a warm-down and, through his agent Mino Raiola, indicated that he wanted to stay in England. “I talked with Balotelli, the boy was sorry for what happened,” said Raiola.
“I heard Roberto and I can guarantee that the intention is not to sell him. Maybe he said those things because a defeat is hard to swallow. I think there was a misunderstanding. Roberto told me that it meant that the FA would take serious measures that will prevent Balotelli to play. Mario’s intention is to remain in England and he has a contract with City.”
Balotelli later issued a statement saying that his future would be decided at the end of the season. “At the end of the season I will speak with the club and we’ll see,” he said. “I’m very sorry for what happened and for the disappointment caused to City.”
Balotelli added that his apologies were directed “especially to Roberto Mancini, who I admire and wish well”.
Raiola also rejected any suggestion that Balotelli’s recent behaviour had somehow been a premeditated plan to force a move. He did add, however, that Balotelli misses Italy’s Serie A and it is understood that Manchester City would be open to offers this summer.
Balotelli’s behaviour has also placed his international future under question, with Italy coach Cesare Prandelli admitting that he would seek replays of Sunday’s game. Prandelli has a zero-tolerance approach towards ill discipline and has always excluded players if they are serving a club ban for violent conduct. “I will watch his sending off before deciding whether or not to apply the code of ethics for Balotelli,” said Prandelli.
James Milner, the Manchester City midfielder, refused to even talk about Balotelli after Sunday’s defeat against Arsenal left Manchester United eight points clear at the top of the Premier League. “We have to make sure we learn from the good and the poor things which have gone on,” said Milner. “It is about having that ruthlessness on the road which we can learn from. For the last 20 years, United have got that knack of winning and know how to close out title races.”