Roberto Mancini says it’s “amazing” that Mario Balotelli isn’t Italy striker but notes “it’s his own fault”.
The former Inter Coach has given a lengthy interview to L’Equipe about his protege, and is frustrated that he hasn’t been in the Azzurri squad for two years
“If Mario isn’t playing for Italy today, it’s his own fault,” Mancini sighed.
“It’s amazing that he’s not the starting centre-forward for the Italy team. He’s the best Italian striker of recent years.
“I hope that Mario has understood he must have a different attitude, thinking only about football. It’s not that hard.”
Balotelli’s disciplinary problems have hurt Mancini too, not least his red card while playing for Manchester City in the Europa League Quarter-Final in 2011…
“We lost 2-0 [to Dynamo Kiev] in the first leg, but in the return we were 1-0 up, scoring with 10 men against 11 after Mario was sent-off. Without his red card, we’d have qualified.
“He’s done some nonsense in his career, I was angry with him and so were his teammates. In the dressing room after the game, I was furious.”
There was also a backheel while through on goal in a friendly against LA Galaxy, for which Mancini immediately subbed him off…
“Yes, it annoyed me and I immediately subbed him off even though we were in the first half. He’d made a good move, found himself on-on-one with the goalkeeper and could calmly have beaten him.
“He preferred to do otherwise, spinning round and backheeling it. You can’t make fun of your opponents, I’m sorry he scattered his talent.
“His departure from City? He came into conflict with some of his teammates because of his behaviour, plus he wanted to return to Italy.
“I was disappointed that he wanted to leave, because he should have done much more in an extraordinary League.
“My training ground fight with him? I told the players not to make stupid fouls on [Gael] Clichy, because he was just returning from injury.
“Then Mario made too strong a challenge on him – I was furious! I grabbed Mario by the neck, wanting to push him away, but he’s so strong I had trouble moving him.
“If you look at the pictures you’d think we came to blows, but nothing like that happened.”
It wasn’t all bad in England though, with Balotelli scoring twice in a famous 6-1 win over Manchester United at Old Trafford.
“Mario was breathtaking! Everyone had a great game that will be spoken about for 100 years,” Mancini enthused.
“That day it was like Mario was a grown-up, an adult, and all the rest were children. I’ve always loved to see him like he was in the derby, because these things come easily to him if he really wants them to.
“I was happy that he showed his true worth, and when he showed his shirt [“why always me?”] I said he was really a one-off – who’d think of doing that?
“He’s a one-off in the way things come into his head. The day before the match he told me about the fire in his house [from setting off fireworks in the bathroom]. He told me he was sleeping and his friends were there… You get something different with Mario every day.
“Winning the League? We became champion in stoppage time on the final day of the season against QPR [Queens Park Rangers] with a goal from Sergio Aguero after a one-two with Balotelli.
“Mario gave the ball to Sergio as he was slipping – what intuition! Mario scored 13 goals in the League-winning season, he became an idol for the City fans.
“A player like him pleases the fans, they were in love with him. It was important for him and for me to fly the Italian flag abroad.”
Finally, Mancini was asked whether Balotelli’s struggles can be put down to his difficult childhood, and whether having a child of his own has changed him.
“I understand, because I know his history. He didn’t have an easy childhood. But in his misfortune he had a great opportunity, because he was adopted by the Balotelli family who raised him.
“They’re very good people. They gave him the chance to play football, his family and relatives often came to Manchester, so I met all the Balotellis.
“We met at the San Carlo restaurant after matches. I had a great relationship with his [adopted] parents, his mum and dad would ask me how he was behaving.
“They really insisted on Mario having a good attitude. So yes, he had his excuses but now he’s a dad, he has his daughter so he must behave well, he has responsibilities.
“Once at City he told me about his daughter [Pia], he was very happy.
“It was an amusing discussion, because at that time, thinking about Mario being a dad…”