Balotelli will remain at Manchester City, claims agent

The agent of Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli has insisted his client will remain with the club despite his recent absence from the first team.

The Italy international has not featured since being substituted during City’s 3-2 defeat to Manchester United on December 9 and has been persistently linked with a move to Milan in recent weeks.

However, his representative, Mino Raiola, has moved to clarify the situation, telling Corriere dello Sport: “Mario will not move now because there is no reason to change team.

“He’s not playing because he was sick and because there have been discussions with Mancini. However, the situation is resolving.”

Raiola went on to explain that Balotelli hopes to regain the trust of manager Roberto Mancini and has put his past mistakes behind him.

He added: “Taking him away from Manchester would be the easiest option. But he will stay at City, although this may seem like the most complicated thing.

“In the past he has made some mistakes, but lately people talk negatively about him only for his affair with Raffaella Fico.

“Balotelli needs to regain his place on the field and regain the confidence from the team. He needs a club that believes in him and he will do anything to deserve this trust.”

Sheikh Mansour favourite Balotelli is likely to stay at Manchester City, says Mancini

Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini believes that Mario Balotelli will stay at the club and has revealed that the striker is still highly regarded by owner Sheikh Mansour.

Balotelli has been a controversial figure on and off the field ever since he signed for the club for £24 million back in 2010 from Inter.

The Italy international scored 13 goals in 23 appearances in the Premier League last season before shining at Euro 2012, but he has scored only once in the top flight in 2012-13 and continues to be dogged by disciplinary problems.

“I think Mario will stay but the future depends mostly on him,” Mancini told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “Sheikh Mansour likes Balotelli because he recognises the talent and he exports the name of the City over the world.

“We need to consider that Mario was made as a major investment, and this is not a club that throws its capital through the window.”

Mancini says he remains fond of Balotelli having overseen his development at two clubs but has acknowledged that the 22-year-old must raise his standards of professionalism.

“The relationship between me and him is always good, even if one day he does something,” he continued.

“I love him because for many years we live together. I’ve seen him grow. But the professional relationship is another thing and I’ve told Mario what I need from him.

“The time of cheap talk is over. Balotelli is 22 years old and now it’s time to be professional. I ask from him seriousness and commitment in training, a more stable private life and correct behaviour on the pitch.

“[Roma forward Francesco] Totti is Mario’s best example. If Francesco is able to have this continuity of performance at the highest level at the age of 36 years, it’s because he has behaved as a professional.

“Mario now has returned to training and could be on the bench against Stoke. Otherwise, he could play against Watford in the FA Cup on January 5.”

Mock the Year 2012: Honour for Tevez and Chelsea re-enact Star Wars

By George Ankers

Man of the Year


Carlos Tevez (Manchester City)

Carlos Tevez owes this award to Mario Balotelli. That is not to say that the Italian is a more deserving Man of the Year – it is the fact that if he had not kept his cool to assist Sergio Aguero for the Premier League-winning goal on May 13, everything would have been different for Tevez.

Starve a club of glory for 44 years and they will become desperate. Irrational.

Manchester City were slipping back in the title race when Tevez returned to action. Roberto Mancini, who is to tactical planning what a toaster is to lockpicking, relied upon individual brilliance to win games but most of his brilliant individuals were burned out.

GOOD YEAR
Robin van Persie
The year in which the Dutch Destroyer transformed from injury-prone talent to best-in-the-world-bothering goal volcano. So good that nobody noticed his useless Euro 2012 and so strong that he survived that vicious attack by Ashley s.

Statisticians
As Lionel Messi blitzed his fearsome goal-rampage all year long, number-crunchers have rarely been more in demand as they were hired to dig up the next unlikely feat. “No player has scored more goals on Tuesdays than Messi!” “He’s the first man to net two with only one shot!” They’ve earned their crust.

Leon Osman
In a tough year for football, seeing Osman finally win an England cap was a cathartic victory for all the little guys out there. MTY salutes you, Leon.

So the Argentine’s comeback was a vital push. He did not score any of those vital goals in the final games but, by then, his work was done. He had reignited City. His orchestration of their 6-1 win at Norwich City in April was one of the most devastating performances of the season.

Rejuvenated, Mancini’s men stole the title from Manchester United in a fashion more dramatic than a 14-year-old girl’s Facebook messages. Everything was fine.

Fine? Why was everything fine? Why did City and all their fans just shrug and mutter “hey, crazy Carlos. What ya gonna do?”

Tevez refused to do his job and went on a golfing tour of South America for four busy months. That’s not adorably crazy, that’s grossly unprofessional. Setting your bin on fire and buying trampolines from John Lewis is adorably crazy.

So again, Tevez owes this award to Balotelli. If Super Mario hadn’t laid the groundwork for City fans accepting extraordinary behaviour, the Argentine would have been hounded out before he could slink back into training.

Instead, he is welcomed by all because, when he finally did bother to show up, he won them a trophy. Glory finally burying the body of football’s principles, stuffing its corpse roughly into a well-dug grave beneath the 18th green. Carlos Tevez is football’s Mr 2012.


WELCOME TO BUENOS AIRES

Quote of the year

“We’ve left ourselves a two-goal cushion to climb”

Petr Cech after Chelsea lose 3-1 to Napoli in the first leg of their Champions League clash. Turns out that cushions are, in fact, easy to climb

Star Wars: A Blue Hope

A long, long time ago in a tax bracket far, far away… the CHELSEA EMPIRE is in chaos. On the planet Mustamfar Bridge, their once-mighty fortress is crumbling, spewing dodgy defending everywhere like lava.

ROBERTOBI-WAN KENODI MATTEO and ROMANAKIN SKYWALKER are waging a fierce duel across the fiery landscape, their lightsabers flashing and hissing like the VIP guests at a footballers’ Christmas party after midnight.

TEAM OF THE YEAR
Goalkeeper: Ali Al Habsi. The only reason why Wigan didn’t go down last year, he’s now seeking a new challenge as the main reason why they probably will.

Defence: The Society of Black Lawyers. Ever-present. (Plus Stewart Downing at left-back.)

Midfield: Marouane Fellaini and his hair. That’ll probably do.

Forwards: Grant Holt – the working man’s champion in 2011-12, deserved an England call-up in the summer, said as much, didn’t get it, got in a huff, hustled his club for more money and then just picked up where he left off. Fair play. Partnered by Gervinho.

ROMANAKIN: Look at what you’ve done! You’ve destroyed the empire!

ROBERTOBI-WAN: You have done that yourself! Your anger and lust for power have already done that. By putting so much faith in that pathetic cartoon of a man, Fer Fer Torrinks, you caused all this!

ROMANAKIN: You were the chosen one!

ROBERTOBI-WAN: No, Romanakin, I was the only one left! I conquered the galaxy for you; we could have ruled it as father and son! But you wanted Han Guardiolo instead – he’ll never join you!

ROMANAKIN: I see through your lies! With you gone, I can bring peace, freedom, justice and security back to the Empire! If I build it, Guardiolo will come!

RAFAEODA: (emerging from the darkness) FACHT, that is.

ROBERTOBI-WAN: Aligning with the enemy, Romanakin? I’ve got a bad feeling about that. If you strike me down, I will become more powerful than you can possibly imagine!

ROMANAKIN: Hardly. You’ll get the Swansea job when Michael Laudrup moves up the ladder, maybe.

A jump. A lightsaber flashes. Silence.

Photo of the Year

Best ex-thing
Euro 2012

Euro 2012 was a solid tournament, perhaps a six-and-a-half or maybe seven out of 10. A good time was had by all, though more in the exciting group stage than the only-really-worth-it-for-Balotelli knockouts.

In future years, however, we will remember it as a marvel, a show-stopping explosion of footballing joy. For future editions of the competition will push upon our faces a pair of glasses so rose-tinted that bees will be trying to pollenate our eyes.

BAD YEAR
English football
On the pitch, standards are slipping like John Terry playing a high line. There’s fun to be had but the Premier League has well and truly had its pants pulled down in the Champions League. Even Ligue 1 is catching up! Off the pitch… just grow up, everyone, please.

Emmanuel Adebayor
Last year, he was the glue holding Spurs together as the league’s most entertaining side. Now he’s a red-card-in-waiting playing second fiddle to Jermain Defoe’s revolutionary ‘false false nine’ poacher role.

Arsenal
Disastrous! Losing club captain Van Persie has, as expected, destroyed the Gunners – to the extent that they are further up the table than they were at this stage of last season. What is it that you want back exactly?

Having already done away with the plausibility of shocking group-stage twists by increasing Euro 2016 to 24 teams, Michel Platini promptly dismembered the soul of the tournament and scattered its twitching limbs across the continent for EuroTrip 2020.

So it was fun but now it’s gone. We’ll just have to pretend that Poland and Ukraine was the perfect send-off for a delightful but now essentially defunct institution – and there were some incredible highlights, like the Antonin Panenka comeback tour and Nicklas Bendtner’s pants.

Anyway, we’ll always have Paris. And London. And Munich. And Bucharest. And…

Hashtag of the Year
#cerealquest

Football is still learning how to deal with Twitter. The relationship has improved, undoubtedly, but there are plenty of flare-ups as the sport reluctantly gets to grips with modernity.

Who could forget the foul-mouthed rant from Ashley Cole as he labelled the FA a “#BUNCHOF[REDACTED]”? Or Rio Ferdinand accusing [REDACTED]? Or [REDACTED] Heskey [REDACTED] spoon [REDACTED]?

Twitter is a great force for good, uniting players, journalists and fans like never before. It can also be a horrible place, where anonymity makes morons feel brave enough to write racial abuse or post Photoshopped pictures of John Terry celebrating other people’s victories.

MISSED OPPORTUNITIES
Things that should have happened in 2012 but didn’t:

Swansea City releasing a parody ‘Danny Graham Style’ video

Brendan Rodgers playing all the characters in ‘Being: Liverpool’

Chelsea winning the Club World Cup (too soon?)

So thank you to Reading defender Sean Morrison for #cerealquest. The young centre-back has done as well as any Royals player following their promotion to the Premier League but he understood that he has a higher calling than just playing the game.

The people needed hope. The people needed joy. The people needed cereal. And so Morrison began a solemn mission to try lots of different kinds of cereal and judge each one to find the best. And he did it with a quite brilliant way with words.

“First things first! The box itself is ridiculous!” he wrote when evaluating Golden Nuggets. “Draws you in from what feels like a mile away! Your eyes lock on and you can’t take them off! Till you grasp the box in your hands! Beautiful and captivating!

“Once the milk washes its self over this graceful cereal! Something amazing happens! It remains unexplained! The crunch of the little nuggets as you bite into them and the flavour of the luscious milk! BAFFLING! Best yet! … 4/5”

Thrilling and different, Morrison has proved himself the Froot Loops of footballers on Twitter. There can be no higher praise.

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Amelia: Balotelli could be great at AC Milan

Marco Amelia believes Mario Balotelli could become a great player if he moves to AC Milan.


As Goal.com exclusively revealed earlier this week, the Rossoneri are finalising a bid for the Manchester City striker as they negotiate the sales of Robinho and Alexandre Pato.

Although he admits he does not wish to see the Brazil duo depart San Siro, Amelia believes Balotelli could begin to fulfil his potential with the Serie A giants.

He told Tuttosport: “I’m not sure what will happen. As a friend and companion, I’d like Robinho and Pato remain, but now …

“I do not know Mario well. I think he crossed a particular moment in his life and I think it might be good for him to come to Milan, this is an environment that allows certain types of behaviour and I’m sure he is willing to prove he can be a great player.”

Milan face the daunting prospect of Barcelona in the Champions League last 16, and while Amelia concedes the Liga leaders are the overwhelming favourites, he insists anything can happen in a two-legged tie.

“On paper they are the best team in the world, the departure of [Pep] Guardiola has not changed that, they continue to leave very little for their opponents,” he continued.

“We met them four times last season. They play more or less the same football; however, like everyone else, they have weaknesses and in 180 minutes something could be given.”

The 30-year-old went on to laud the talents of Lionel Messi, and warned that it can often prove almost impossible to stop him.

He added: “He’s a phenomenon. We should try to stop him getting near goal, although he has the ability to dribble all the way there.

“Then his shots … they seem simple, sometimes harmless, but they give the keeper problems all the time.”

Martins: I am dating Balotelli's sister

EXCLUSIVE

By Lolade Adewuyi

Levante striker Obafemi Martins has confirmed rumours that he is dating Abigail Balotelli, the elder sister of Manchester City attacker Mario Balotelli.

It had been speculated that their relationship has grown serious, with some blogs even suggesting that two are getting married, but the former Wolfsburg man has moved to squash such claims and revealed his anger with people who are meddling with his personal life.

“That’s my personal life anyway, but I’ve been seeing some blogs saying we’re getting married, saying she had a kid, for me that’s bulls**t. People are just twisting things up. I don’t understand why they are doing that,” Martins told Goal.com.

“The relationship is true but getting married or not, we haven’t discussed anything like that. She’s upstairs and we’re happy together.”

He also dismissed insinuations that Abigail’s younger brother has kicked against their relationship. Abigail, 24, told the The Sun in an interview in April that she couldn’t date a footballer: “Mario wouldn’t let me anyway. He knows only too well what they are like. They are surrounded by women. Girls throw themselves at them.”

But Martins responded: “Mario is my boy. The respect is there because I used to play at Inter, in the youth team with him. He’s giving me my respect and I’m doing same. People are putting it in the news that he’s upset, of course he’s glad.

“He’s glad that Obafemi Martins is dating his sister. But if he gets jealous then it means he doesn’t want his sister to grow. But it’s not like that. The boy is not a bad boy, trust me, he’s not a bad boy.”

Following a very low period in his career where he looked set to end it all in the backwaters of the Russian league, the 28 year-old forward has since rediscovered his prowess in front of goal for the Liga side having netted six times in 13 games.

According to reports, Martins took a huge pay cut from being on an annual salary of €2 million at Rubin to €600,000 to move to Spain and play for Levante, but the Nigeria international is still confident he made the right decision and is delighted to be back amongst the goals.

“I’m busy playing now and scoring goals, so I’m happy.”

“You know as a footballer, you can’t expect everything to be going up all the time. When things are difficult you try to sort it out yourself, you try to push yourself back up.

“What I did was I made the decision to leave Russia and I’m in Levante now scoring goals. I wanted my fans to know that I can still play and do well, that’s why I left Russia.

“I chose the favourite team which is Levante and the pay cut was very big. I lost a lot of money because I love football. I have a passion for football that’s why I did it. And now I’m glad I made the decision and I’ve been playing now.”

In the past few months Martins has played against the two big Spanish teams – Barcelona and Real Madrid – and their stars Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, arguably the two best footballers in the world at the moment. Even though Levante lost against both teams, he feels it was a good experience.  

He added: “I used to play against them anyway – when I used to play in England I played against Ronaldo, and Messi in the Champions League when I used to play at Rubin Kazan.

“They are good players and their teams are wonderful teams, they are not small teams that you can defeat easily. They are good players and are doing very well.

“Whenever I play against them I always see them as among the best players in the world. Everybody wants to play against them. I’m glad that I’m in Spain now playing against all these top players and teams and I hope to continue what I’ve been doing.”