Mancini: Balotelli can smoke as long as he scores goals

Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini has told Mario Balotelli he can continue to smoke as long as he scores goals for the club.

Mancini is believed to have a strong dislike of the player’s habit but has given up trying to make him stop.

The Italian boss insists his compatriot’s tobacco habit is not his problem, but feels it would be better if he quit smoking.

“It’s not my problem,” Mancini told The Mirror.

“If Mario wants to smoke, it’s his problem. But if he wants my opinion, it is better that he quits.

“But if he smokes 10 cigarettes a day and scores two goals every game, then that’s better.”

Balotelli sat in the stands during Manchester City’s midweek trip to Spain to face Real Madrid in the Champions League, despite being fit and travelling with the squad to the Spanish capital.

However, Mancini denied claims that Balotelli sat out the fixture because of a breach of club discipline relating to a late night out last week.

It was just a matter of squad rotation in a congested month in the fixture list, according to the 47-year-old.

“Mario was upset, but that’s normal. I don’t think there can be a player who doesn’t play and is happy,” he continued.

“But when you have five games in 20 days, like we do, you should pay attention to the consequences.

“It’s better that one important player, like Mario or James Milner, goes to the stand. When you have a full squad it’s very difficult.

“If you want to go through in all competitions, it is important that you have players who understand this situation.”

Mancini denies fresh Balotelli bust-up ahead of Arsenal clash

Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini has rebuffed reports he has fallen out with Mario Balotelli ahead of Sunday’s Premier League encounter with Arsenal.

The 22-year-old was omitted for the dramatic 3-2 Champions League defeat against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu on Tuesday night, sparking rumours of another bust-up with the manager.

But, Mancini refuted the suggestions, claiming it was simply a case of rotation and that the Italy international will be fit to play against Arsenal.

“This story is totally false,” Mancini told Sky Sports.

“Mario went in the stand only because we started to play with Carlos Tevez in attack and we couldn’t have three strikers on the bench.

“There has been no argument, and no row. Absolutely not.”

Meanwhile, the 47-year-old confirmed that Samir Nasri is a major doubt to face his former club, after the France midfielder was taken off during Tuesday’s game with a hamstring problem.

The France international’s injury is not as serious as first feared, but the Blues’ boss admits a comeback on Sunday is very unlikely.

“I do not think he will be ready for Sunday,” Mancini added. “We will try but it is difficult.

“I hope he will be OK for next week.”

Balotelli may miss Stoke clash after eye surgery

Mario Balotelli should be ready to play again for Manchester City in 10 days after undergoing laser eye surgery, according to the surgeon who conducted the operation.

The Italian striker is likely to miss the Citizens’ Premier League clash with Stoke after the international break, however, as he adjusts to the procedure.

Balotelli, who previously suffered from Mypoia, has used contact lenses on the football pitch for much of his professional career. However, he recently contracted conjunctivitis, rendering an operation necessary.

“He had a few problems with contact lenses some years ago,” surgeon Emanuele Scuri told Sky Sports Italia.

“We waited for the defect to stabilise over the last four years and this was the right time to have the operation.

“His eyes did not tolerate the contact lenses and he had problems at the start of the season.

“I think in around 10 days he should be ready to play again.

“We brought the operation forward by a day to avoid the paparazzi. This surgery will enable Balotelli to see very well.

“Already he asked if he could drive and I suggested he should get a lift until Thursday.”

Hazard has 'everything', says Chelsea favourite Zola

Chelsea legend Gianfranco Zola believes Eden Hazard has “everything” required to become one of the Blues’ best players.

The Belgian has taken to the Premier League in impressive fashion, scoring once and racking up an incredible six assists in just three top-flight matches.

When asked who he thought were title contenders, Zola told Gazetta Dello Sport: “Chelsea and the two Manchester clubs.”

“Hazard has integrated well into Chelsea’s team, people are already comparing him to myself. He has everything; technique, personality, goal-scoring instincts and imagination.”

Zola was appointed Watford manager this summer after the Pozzo family’s takeover, and the former West Ham boss insists he will be given time to bring success to Vicarage Road.

He added: “[I joined] for two reasons: England and the project. My family wanted to come here, we have always been very comfortable. I like the ideas of [Giampaolo] Pozzo. He wants to create another Udinese here in England.

“They have asked me for a season of adjustment. We will aim for a place on the play-offs and promotion next season.”

The 46-year-old also challenged Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli to keep improving, after his fine Euro 2012 performances for Italy.

He claimed: “Balotelli depends on Balotelli. The European Championships proved he can be a champion, but he can still do better.”

Manchester City striker Balotelli set to undergo eye surgery

Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini has confirmed that Mario Balotelli is set to undergo eye surgery on September 4.

The 22-year-old is no longer able to wear contact lenses and requires surgery to correct the problem.

Mancini revealed the Italian striker will soon go under the knife and consequently is not ready to feature in City’s match against QPR this weekend.

“Mario is not ready to return to the pitch yet. He no longer seems to tolerate contact lenses. He’s feeling alright now, but the problem can return any time,” Mancini told reporters.

The City manager is already without key forward Sergio Aguero for the next couple of weeks after he picked up a knee injury in the opening game of the season.

He had asked Balotelli to step up to the plate during the Argentine’s injury lay-off, but now the Italian has joined Aguero on the sidelines.

The 47-year-old will therefore have to rely on the combination of Carlos Tevez and Edin Dzeko to lead the line in the absence of Aguero and Balotelli.