The Manchester City manager is adamant that Mario Balotelli has a big future at Eastlands despite his recent poor behaviour.
Mancini backs Balotelli to be a star for Man City
Roberto Mancini, the Manchester City manager, is adamant that Mario Balotelli has a big future at Eastlands despite his recent poor behaviour.
Since joining City from Inter Milan last year, Balotelli has been the subject of several unsavoury headlines in the British press relating to his personal life and his conduct both on and off the pitch.
His latest misdemeanour involved him being caught throwing darts at members of City's junior sides at the club's Carrington training base.
But ahead of today's encounter with Sunderland at Eastlands, Mancini is confident that the striker, who has already displayed glimpses of his huge talent, can become a City favourite.
He acknowledged that the Italian international is struggling to adapt to being centre of attention.
"I do not regret signing him," Mancini said. "Mario is a fantastic player. He is a 20 year old, so it is usual his behaviour is not good enough. I understand this situation very well. Playing here could be a fantastic experience for him.
"He has started 15 games and scored 10 goals. But he has to improve his behaviour.
"Now, everything Mario does is big news. If he goes into a restaurant and speaks to a woman, five will come forward and say they spoke to him. I have spoken to him. What I said will remain private, but I hope he can change his behaviour."
Mancini will be hoping Balotelli can add to his goal tally against Sunderland, a club who have lost on six consecutive occasions at City since their victory at Maine Road, City's old ground, in 1998.
However, manager Steve Bruce has been reassured that things will have to become a whole lot worse before he needs to start fearing for his future.
In 11th place now on 38 points, Sunderland are in danger of being dragged into the scrap for survival after losing five of their last six games.
Yet having emerged from a three-month, 14-game winless run which wrote off last season, a six-match sticky patch is nothing too much to worry about, according to chairman Niall Quinn, who scored more than 60 goals for both Sunderland and City.
"Steve understands that because I'm a football person, there's no knee-jerk reaction whatever happens here," Quinn said. "It would have to be a really long sustained period when the dogs in the street would know that he wasn't the right man. He'll be here for the longer term.
"We hope the club can fulfil Steve's ambitions. He wants to play in European [football] and he wants to get to a cup final. He wants to know this club is going to be knocking on the door for Europe every year and that we can take on the big boys. He's got our full support.
"Progress is a slow grind but we're playing with the big boys and we're making a good impression. We're starting to earn respect."
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