Manchester City academy players urged not to copy Balotelli’s behaviour

Manchester City’s football administrator Brian Marwood has urged the club’s academy players not to copy Mario Balotelli’s behaviour.

The striker has previously been involved in bust-ups with manager Roberto Mancini, while recent reports have suggested the Premier League champions would be willing to offload the 22-year-old.

Marwood believes Balotelli should be following in the footsteps of some of Mancini’s senior players and has insinuated that the Italy international is not one of the club’s role models.

“I look at Pablo Zabaleta, Vincent Kompany, Joe Hart, Gareth Barry, Joleon Lescott,” Marwood told reporters.

“We have a lot of players who think and behave in the right way. You have to make sure they’re the role models.

“I think, and we all know who you’re talking about, you’ll always get people within the system that will not show those values and behaviours, but in the main I think we have a fantastic group of players.”

Marwood also revealed that a former Manchester City player was sold following an episode of poor conduct at the club’s training ground.

“A player no longer at the club came out of the reception at our Carrington training ground, where we’d spent a lot of money, and spilled some rubbish on the pathway. He then walked across newly laid turf – which he shouldn’t really have walked across – and got into his car. He disrespected the environment he was in.

“Five minutes later, Gareth Barry came out, picked up the rubbish and put it in a bin. It said something about the values and behaviour we must deliver to young players.”

Balotelli must show he can become a champion, says Italy head coach Prandelli

Italy manager Cesare Prandelli has questioned Mario Balotelli‘s commitment to the national side and called on the striker to show he can “become a champion”.

The 22-year-old has missed the Azzurri’s first two World Cup 2012 qualifiers, in which Italy gained an unconvincing draw against Bulgaria and a win against Malta, to undergo surgery on his eye.

The Manchester City striker has been selected in the new 27-man squad to face Armenia and Denmark and Prandelli has admitted that, despite being upset that Balotelli missed the last World Cup qualifiers, he is hoping the forward can make a big difference to the team’s performances.

“I admit I was upset by Balotelli’s decision to have an eye operation the same week that two Italy games were on the horizon,” Prandelli told reporters on Monday.

“I’ve called him up to try and assess whether he wants to become a champion.”

The Italy coach has decided to recall some familiar faces to his squad, with experienced players such as Alberto Gilardino and Domenico Criscito, but has insisted that the younger players are the future of the country’s chances for success, with the likes of Stephan El Shaarawy and Marco Verratti – both 19 – also included.

“Young people are the future, and we have to focus on them,” the 55-year-old coach continued.

“Del Bosque told me that after the World Cup in South Africa he changed 50 per cent of his squad. Renovation is the key word.”

Prandelli recalls Balotelli, El Shaarawy and Gilardino to the Azzurri

Coach Cesare Prandelli has recalled Mario Balotelli, Alberto Gilardino, Stephan El Shaarawy, Andrea Ranocchia, Antonio Candreva and Domenico Criscito to his squad for Italy’s upcoming World Cup qualifiers.

The Euro 2012 finalists travel to Armenia on October 12 before entertaining Denmark at the Giuseppe Meazza stadium on Tuesday October 16.

Balotelli will make his return after missing Italy’s first round of qualifiers due to eye surgery while Milan’s El Shaarawy has been rewarded for his fine form of late.

Zenit’s Criscito is also back in the fold since being excluded on the eve of Euro 2012 while World Cup winner Gilardino is also included after two years out as is Candreva who has not appeared for La Nazionale in three years.

G Buffon Juventus
S Sirigu PSG
M De Sanctis Napoli
E Viviano Fiorentina
I Abate Milan
F Balzaretti Roma
A Barzagli Juventus
L Bonucci Juventus
G Chiellini Juventus
A Ranocchia Inter
A Ogbonna Torino
D Criscito Zenit
A Candreva Lazio
D De Rossi Roma
A Diamanti Bologna
E Giaccherini Juventus
C Marchisio Juventus
M Verratti PSG
A Pirlo Juventus
R Montolivo Milan
A Gilardino Bologna
M Balotelli Man City
M Destro Roma
S Giovinco Juventus
P Osvaldo Roma
S El Shaarawy Milan

Mourinho backs Mancini to bring out the best in Balotelli

Real Madrid boss Jose Mourinho has spoken fondly of his time coaching Mario Balotelli at Inter, labelling the Manchester City youngster a “funny kid”.

The Portuguese endured a fractious relationship with the mercurial striker during his time in Italy, and often argued with the Italian international over his off-field behaviour.

However, Mourinho has moved to play down any suggestions of a rift between himself and Balotelli, insisting that he found the player amusing.

“I could write a book of 200 pages of my two years at Inter with Mario, but the book would be not a drama, the book would be a comedy because he is funny, he’s a funny kid,” he told CNN.

Mourinho went on to suggest that City boss Roberto Mancini is the perfect mentor for the young striker, as his long relationship with Balotelli makes him ideally suited to get the best out of him.

Indeed, Mourinho warned the 22-year-old that if he fails under the Italian boss, then he is unlikely to ever reach his full potential as a player.

“Mancini was his first coach as a professional, so before me,” he added. “So for sure the same feeling I have, Mancini has probably even more than Mario.

“You know, Mario was 18 with Mancini at Inter and he was 20 with me. Now, he should be 22, so the natural tendency is that he grows up and becomes the player that the talent he has.

“I’ve no contact with Mario in this moment, but I hope so. I hope so, and Roberto knows him well, speaks the same language, knows him since he was a kid, so if he doesn’t do it with Roberto, it will be difficult to do with another one, but I hope so because he’s a talent.”

Edin to the front of the queue: Dzeko delivers again to stake claim for regular starting spot

By Jay Jaffa

On Saturday at a sun-drenched Craven Cottage, Edin Dzeko was given just four minutes to make a difference in a game Manchester City had to win following Roberto Mancini’s declaration that his team “will win the title” and took his once chance with the assurance of a man in form. His reaction saw him briefly acknowledge the away fans before curving his celebratory run in the direction of his manager.

Whether this was an “I told you so,” is neither here nor there, the Sarajevo-born hit-man had delivered a deserved three points on a silver platter for the Premier League champions.

They say the second year is the hardest and for City’s title defence, this is proving the case, but while Mancini’s strikers flit between form and function, Dzeko highlighted his worth to his manager in the briefest of cameos.

Only 12 months ago, Dzeko was wowing Premier League audiences with his quadruple at Tottenham – twice as many as he managed in his first six months in England – as he went on to knock goals in at a rate of one every two games, contributing to the club’s crowning moment last May.

Yet, his stock fell over the summer period – as much down to the redemption of Carlos Tevez as it was his own doing, as he stumbled to the finish line with one paltry goal in 11 games. At 26, he still has his best years ahead of him but summer rumours suggested that could lie elsewhere. He was linked with a summer move to Juventus following a period that saw his star wane in the blue side of Manchester amid dissenting voices suggesting, among other concerns, that his first touch was not at the level required.

But he is one star of many and the £27 million man has had to adjust his game dramatically since moving from the Bundesliga to the Premier League. Where at Wolfsburg he could rely on a regular partnership with the Brazilian striker Grafite and service from compatriot Zvjezdan Misimovic and largely act as a finisher, at City Dzeko has been asked to be more involved on the floor, in the build-up and in the creation of chances.

The Bosnian has only really had a prolonged spell up front in the absence of others but now with everyone fit and available appears to be carving his niche as an impact, Plan B striker.

Dzeko may have only played 489 minutes (180 for Bosnia) but he has scored eight goals for club and country in ten games this season, more than Carlos Tevez, Sergio Aguero and Mario Balotelli combined. His habit of scoring crucial goals is fast-turning him into a key figure and were it not for the incredible late comeback by Real Madrid, he would be regaled for years as the man whose goal claimed victory at the Bernabeu.

Mancini has kept coy on the difficulty of keeping four strikers happy. Understandably he is reluctant to unsettle Tevez again, and has to juggle the weekly malcontent of Mario Balotelli. His star pupil Sergio Aguero is both too good to drop and too classy to complain, while Dzeko appears happy to show his boss what he can do at any given opportunity. He admitted after the Fulham game that he “wasn’t happy” with the situation but if he keeps grabbing the headlines, will it matter?

Though City were thankful for John-Arne Riise’s inexplicable attempt at a clearance just prior to Dzeko’s match-winner, the goal itself was a microcosm of what had come before and what could now be if the Bosnian is used correctly.

For all City’s dominance and David Silva’s invention, they found a compact, stubborn Fulham defence able to snuff out any danger. That was until the Bosnian entered play on the 86th minute and drastically changed the threat his team possessed.

No sooner had Dzeko been introduced, than Gael Clichy lofted a cross into the box – the first of the game. The French full-back spent the majority of the second-half in the left-wing position but every cross was low and easily cut out. Suddenly, with Dzeko (and to a lesser extent, Balotelli) on the pitch, he had a target to aim for and it was little surprise that Riise and Co. struggled to adapt to the change in attack.

As a broader point, Mancini’s rotation worked well against Fulham, in what was undoubtedly their best performance of the campaign. In a fair and just world, Joe Hart would not have picked the ball out of his net after one of the poorest penalty decisions of the season, and City would have left west London with a clean sheet – their first of the season. Matija Nastasic looks assured beyond his years and Javi Garcia passed with authority.

But the narrative hinges on Dzeko’s impact and may well prove to be the turning point in a season yet to truly define the leading contenders. Aside from Chelsea, who secured a big result at Arsenal, giving them a distinct three-point lead at the top, City’s rivals have yet to truly show their hands.

And with Dzeko now at the front of the queue, all eyes turn to watch Mancini’s next move – City have a gruelling schedule and the Italian will be thankful for his rich collection of strikers but the key will be how he uses them. If Mancini continues to coax the best out of Dzeko the second title he forewarned may not be as tricky as he anticipates.

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