Super Mario warned to get his act together
MARIO BALOTELLI has been told to cut out his bizarre behaviour or risk ruining a brilliant career.
Manchester City team-mate Nigel de Jong did not mince words with the Italian, who was hauled off the pitch in disgrace by furious manager Roberto Mancini for attempting an outrageous trick shot during their friendly against David Beckham's LA Galaxy.
The 20-year-old had already put City ahead from the penalty spot following a foul on Micah Richards when the bizarre incident occurred around the half-hour mark.
Balotelli was sent clear of the home defence, but -- instead of attempting to score normally -- he tried a complicated pivot and backheel which resulted in the ball rolling wide.
Mancini was clearly furious and substituted Balotelli moments later.
De Jong, like a growing number of people around the club, appears to be growing tired of the kind of showboating and shenanigans that have become commonplace since the 20-year-old arrived for £24m from Inter Milan a year ago.
"It is frustrating and he has to iron out those issues, otherwise it will be a waste of his talent," said the Dutchman. "He has to realise that."
Mancini, who had a touchline row with the striker -- who appeared to deliver an insult towards him as he walked to the bench -- described his actions against Galaxy as unprofessional and warned him they will not be tolerated.
"I hope this is a lesson for him," said the manager after the match, which City won 7-6 on penalties after a 1-1 draw.
"In football you always need to be professional, always serious and in this moment he wasn't professional."
Mancini insisted that the matter is now finished but he, like so many around the player, must wonder if Balotelli will ever learn or whether the transgressions will continue.
The striker has been involved in a catalogue of controversy that includes throwing darts at City's youth players, training ground bust-ups and the needless red card against Dynamo Kiev last season that means he is suspended for City's first three Champions League games.
City's enfant terrible raised further eyebrows when, as he accepted the Golden Boy award, he declared of the previous winners that the only one who was a "little bit" better than him was Lionel Messi.
Balotelli did not turn up for an end-of-season trophy parade even though he was named Man of the Match after City defeated Stoke in the FA Cup final at Wembley.
He has also been pictured showing off a T-shirt of questionable taste, which was condemned by the Damilo la Taylor Trust.
"Everybody is trying, but it is up to him to change himself,'' said De Jong as he tried some tough love to get the message through. "He has to realise it's up to him. It's not up to anyone else any more.
"We're his team-mates and we're always trying to help him but he has to make the right decisions and get the focus for himself. He's a very talented guy and he has all the right attributes to be a world-class player. Everyone is always talking about the negative things but, as a football player, he's one of the biggest talents."
De Jong is no stranger to trouble himself. He was dropped from the Dutch squad last season following a tackle on Hatem Ben Arfa that left the Newcastle player with a double fracture of the leg and he is infamous for his ninja-style kick on Xabi Alonso in last year's World Cup final.
He appears, however, to be cleaning up his act and recommends that Balotelli does the same.
"He must learn and realise that something like this will not be accepted, either by the team or the staff."
James Milner, who came on for Balotelli, had similar thoughts on the matter. "Mario has shown since he has been here that he has got great potential, but he is still young and still learning," he said. "Hopefully he will get better and maybe learn from these sorts of experiences."
Milner would not be drawn on whether he felt Balotelli's actions had been disrespectful, but added: "Obviously we'd like him to put that in the back of the net, but Mario is Mario and he does some strange things sometimes."
Balotelli's latest indiscretion comes at a time when City, who returned to England from the United States yesterday, have an unhappy roster of forwards on their books.
The future of Carlos Tevez remains uncertain following the breakdown of his transfer to Corinthians, while the club's relations with Emmanuel Adebayor and Craig Bellamy appear to be at an all-time low.
Mancini should soon have more options in attack, though, with City looking to swiftly tie up a deal for Atletico Madrid's Sergio Aguero.
When asked about Aguero in his post-match press conference, Mancini said: "I know the club are talking with Atletico Madrid. I don't know the situation at the moment, but I hope that we can close it in maybe four or five days, or seven days."
Meanwhile, Alex Ferguson doubts whether he will sign any more players before Manchester United face their "noisy neighbours" in the Community Shield at Wembley next month.
The United boss signed three players right at the start of the summer but an extensive search for a playmaker to replace Paul Scholes has so far proved futile.
It is anticipated that if Luka Modric and Samir Nasri leave Tottenham and Arsenal respectively, they will head to other ports of call than Old Trafford and a deal to sign Dutch midfielder Wesley Sneijder from Inter Milan has floundered due to the extreme costs involved.
"It is not a normal Community Shield for Manchester United," said Ferguson. "It is addressing our noisy neighbours again. It will be an interesting match.
"We lost five players in their 30s this summer," added Ferguson. "That helped finance the three younger players -- Ashley Young, Phil Jones and David de Gea -- I have brought to the club.
"At this moment, I can't see another addition. The type of player we might have been looking for is not available, but I am happy with the players I have got at this moment in time.
Ferguson revealed that Javier Hernandez, who has finally made his eagerly awaited appearance on tour following a triumphant Gold Cup campaign with Mexico, is unlikely to be involved in tomorrow night's encounter with the MLS All-Stars at Red Bull Arena.
"The most important thing for us is to give him some proper training before we even consider him for the first team," Ferguson added. (© Daily Telegraph, London)