Mancini rules out Manchester City exit for Balotelli

Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini has denied that the club ever considered selling striker Mario Balotelli in January, stating that he has an important part to play for the champions for the remainder of the season.

The 22-year-old struck his first goal of the season in the 2-0 win over Wigan on Wednesday night, with Mancini choosing to take Sergio Aguero off rather than the Italian just prior to the first goal.

Both Inter and AC Milan have been linked with a move for Balotelli in recent weeks, but Mancini has dismissed any possibility of the striker leaving during the upcoming transfer window.

“No it’s not true. It’s his first goal this season and I hope he can improve after this game,” Mancini told reporters.

“We have four top strikers but we’ve had some difficulty scoring goals like we did last season. I hope we can move on from this.

“The season is very long, and if a lot of teams are playing in the Champions League in February it can change everything.

“We are at the top with United at the moment but I think Chelsea can fight for the title as well.”

The victory over the Latics at the DW Stadium ensured that City kept pace with Manchester United at the top of the Premier League table, sitting just a point behind their rivals having played 14 games each.

Manchester City & United pull away in two-horse title race

By Jack Gaughan at DW Stadium

In the immediate aftermath of Manchester City’s 2-0 win at Wigan Athletic, Roberto Mancini was asked for his assessment on the title race. Is it now, thanks largely to the Rafael Benitez disaffect at Chelsea and continued indifference at Arsenal, a straight shootout between the two Manchester clubs once again for the Premier League crown?

“The season is very long,” he straight-batted. “Chelsea will fight for the title.”

Even if he does not truly believe those words Mancini is diplomatic. He has to be. That is a state his opposite number at Old Trafford, Sir Alex Ferguson, has always maintained. 

But the Manchester City manager seems, to all intents and purposes, to be wrong. Chelsea will not fight for the title – they are already seven points adrift of the top and have gone six matches without tasting victory.

It might sound foolish to be talking so bullishly about the chances of a team who are third and have won the league three times in the last eight years, given we are yet to reach December.

However, the revolt against Benitez and the lacklustre pace in which they have attacked since his arrival have put paid to the usual bounce created by a change in management mid-season. Owner Roman Abramovich may just have rolled the interim manager dice one too many times.

Up in the north-west, on the other hand, sit two happy camps. The supporters are happy with their managers – it is hard to imagine any hastily-made A4 pieces of paper sprouting up at the Etihad or Old Trafford – and there is a settled plan at boardroom level of both clubs.

The sacking of Roberto Di Matteo, on the other hand, was about as rash as the ink shoved into the printers for those A4 sheets.

And there is good reason for Manchester City fans, in particularly, to be extremely happy with their boss, particularly after the win at Wigan.

The game had been a dreary affair at the DW Stadium with the champions simply not playing at all well. With 68 minutes gone and the game still goalless, Mancini decided to haul Sergio Aguero off and bring Aleksandar Kolarov on to match Wigan’s formation.

It worked immediately – the substitution was correct and Mario Balotelli scored within a minute. In the end they won the game at a relative canter, with another substitute, James Milner, notching a second from range, his manager’s decisions vindicated.

Balotelli’s first goal of the campaign will be a huge relief, and his passionate celebration somewhat encouraging as well. City, just like anybody else, need at least one of their match winners firing at all times.

“I’m very happy for him because he has scored his first goal of the season. We have four top strikers,” Mancini said afterwards.

“At the moment we’ve got some difficulty scoring as many goals as last year, but I think if we work we can change this.”

This was no walk in the park, though, and City had to grind out the eventual result. For almost 70 minutes, it was a turgid affair.

“We knew before the game that it would be difficult. We don’t win easy against Wigan,” Mancini added. “In the end we deserved to win.”

Deserved, maybe. Ugly, certainly. Those uncomfortably won three points may just be the ones City look back on with great fondness.

During the last four months the champions have come good despite playing poorly against Southampton, Fulham, West Brom and Swansea City. They have not yet started to play to anywhere near their maximum, which must be frightening for anyone associated with Chelsea who maintains ambitions of catching City.

Manchester United, one point better off than their rivals, are also yet to hit their stride. Before last night’s 1-0 win against West Ham United, they had conceded the opening goal in their last three games.

Crucially, they won two of those games despite having to come from behind which is why, when the phase “grinding out victories” was put to Sir Alex Ferguson, it was met with a grin. He knows what it is about. So, too, does Mancini. Resolve and endeavour are so important in a division littered with quality from first to 20th, and something the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham lack on a consistent basis.

So when the top two meet in the Manchester derby at the Etihad Stadium on December 9, it could well be individual brilliance that settles it.

The probability that the match will be a classic is unlikely, but victory for either will serve as a further reminder that United and City can beat the best without playing particularly brilliantly. Of course it may even be a draw – which will probably suit both sides, because after all, this is a two-horse race.

De Jong wants ex-Manchester City team-mate Balotelli to join AC Milan

Nigel de Jong has hailed Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli, with recent reports linking the striker with a move to AC Milan.

The Italy international has struggled to hold down a place in Roberto Mancini’s side this season, and is also interesting Ligue 1 giants Paris Saint-Germain.

Despite a disappointing campaign so far, one bright spot for the Rossoneri has been Stephan El Shaarawy, with the 20-year-old leading the Serie A scoring charts, but De Jong believes the two Italian strikers are not comparable.

“I have read about Mario coming to Milan in the papers,” De Jong told Tuttosport. “Let’s see what happens. It is always nice to have great players in the team.

“It is difficult to make comparisons, everyone has his own talent and his features. Stephan is currently one of the biggest talents in the world, he is playing at the highest level and he is just 20.

“You don’t have to be crazy – and he isn’t – to be a great player. Balotelli is great but he must feel good to do his best.”

The Netherlands international admitted that he initially found it hard to adapt to life in Italy, but maintains he is happy to stay, but took a swipe at Serie A supporters after playing in stadiums with few fans in.

“It took me longer than I expected to settle here but I’ve only been here for two months,” De Jong added.

“Every game I try to do better. Everything is new for me here, the coach is looking for the best game plan and I have to adapt. Recent results show that we are on the right track with the 4-3-3.

“I like Italian football even if the stadiums are empty.”

Balotelli can be as good as Messi and Ronaldo, insists Mancini

Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini believes Mario Balotelli could become the Premier League’s answer to Lionel Messi and Cristano Ronaldo if he alters his attitude.

The 22-year-old is rarely out of the spotlight, and his work ethic was publicly questioned by his manager recently when Mancini revealed that the striker had been dropped from City’s squad for their game against Tottenham Hotspur due to a string of poor showings in training.

Mancini lamented the unpredictability of his compatriot, but insisted that off the pitch, Balotelli is a “fantastic guy” who has all the tools to become one of the planet’s finest footballers.

“[Balotelli] has everything to be one of the best players in the world,” Mancini told reporters.

“He could be like Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi if he understands that to be like this you should work hard.

“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.

“He can score two goals next week but he can also take a red card. 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.”

Mario Balotelli’s brother Enoch has not signed for Salford, claims agent

Manchester City star Mario Balotelli’s brother Enoch has not not signed a deal with English club Salford, according to his agent Giorgio Trimpani.

The younger sibling of the Italian was said to have joined the non-league side, who currently sit ninth in the Northern Premier League First Division North.

However, his agent explained the 20-year-old is training with the club in order to maintain his match fitness in preparation for trials with two other English sides, but has not signed any agreement.

“It is not correct that he has signed for Salford. He is simply training with them to keep fit,” he told Sky Sports.

“It’s something that Mario arranged for him in preparation for forthcoming trials that our English partner Dan Fletcher is in the process of organising for him.”

Trimpani’s comments are in stark contrast to those which Salford chairman Darren Quick made on Friday.

“He’s [Balotelli] been training with us and he’s signed for us, subject to international clearance,” he told BBC North West Sport.

He continued: “It’s great for Salford. We hope he can play a few games for us and he can use it as a stepping stone to find a level more suited to him.

“I’ve not met him but I’m told he’s a really nice lad and a really good footballer.

“We play a decent standard of football but some lads don’t want to drop to that level.

“These things can work for both parties,” he added. “We might get a few more through the gate, and maybe his brother might even come and watch us.”

Enoch Balotelli has had unsuccessful trials with Watford, Stoke and Sunderland in the past.