LONDON (Reuters) – Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli could become one of the best players in the world if he worked harder in training, his manager Roberto Mancini said on Tuesday.
The 22-year-old Italian faces a late fitness test on his injured back
and may be unfit for City’s Champions League game against Real Madrid
at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday.
But while a doubt remains about his immediate fitness, his compatriot
Mancini is in no doubt about his talent, although he does question his
mental approach to the game.
Talking to reporters at the club’s Carrington training ground outside
Manchester, Mancini said: "He has everything to be one of the best
players in the world.
"He could be like Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi if he understands that to be like this you should work hard."
Mancini and Balotelli have been likened to having a father-and-son
relationship with Balotelli’s unpredictable character causing problems
on and off the field.
In April, when Balotelli was sent off in a defeat at Arsenal that
looked like costing City their chance of winning the Premier League
title, Mancini said he would definitely sell him.
But almost nine months later Balotelli is still there, if, at times, a peripheral figure in Mancini’s plans.
Revealing the frustrations of working with him, Mancini said: "It is
not easy to work with him every day because if you are a manager, you
should manage 22 players.
"Mario outside the pitch is a fantastic guy. Sometimes he doesn’t
understand how his job is important for his life but I hope he can
understand this quickly.
"He is 22 but life can go quickly. He needs to understand that to be
like Ronaldo and Messi he should work hard, his mind should be always on
his job, not on the other things that are not important."
City must beat Real to have any chance of overturning their poor
start to their second Champions League campaign and advance from Group
They have drawn their two home matches against Borussia Dortmund and
Ajax Amsterdam, and lost their away games at Real Madrid and Ajax and
are bottom with two points. Borussia top the table with eight, followed
by Real on seven and Ajax on four.
But if City win their last two matches and other results go their way
they could still qualify for the last 16, although, as Mancini also
said on Tuesday, "It is very difficult, but we will do what we can.