Mancini: Balotelli has big future
Roberto Mancini says Mario Balotelli has all the attributes to become one of the world's top strikers - if he can just keep his mind focused. The Manchester City striker has only been in England for just over a year, yet he has already managed to get himself involved in more scrapes than most players endure in an entire career. It has led to a perception of Balotelli being hard to handle as well as talented, an assessment James Milner thinks is "pretty accurate". However, since infuriating his manager with his showboating antics during a pre-season game with Los Angeles Galaxy, the 21-year-old has avoided negative headlines. As Mancini noted, on Saturday he even managed a smile as he celebrated opening the scoring in a hard-fought 2-0 win against Everton at the Etihad Stadium. And, though he misses Tuesday's trip to Bayern Munich, a legacy of the four-match ban he received for his dismissal in a Europa League tie with Dynamo Kiev in March, when Mancini branded the forward "stupid", it seems Balotelli is now starting to concentrate on the fundamentals of his career. "With Mario it is never easy," laughed Mancini. "But we keep in our mind that Mario is young, and young guys can have different behaviour. "I know him very well. I know he is a fantastic guy. "I want him to work well all the time, in every training session and every match because this year he could be an important player for us. "He has everything. He has the technical ability. He is strong. He shoots very well. He can score with his head. "He needs time but he can become one of the top players." Balotelli's pivotal contribution to a victory that was sealed by fellow substitute Milner in the final minute justified Mancini's decision to introduce the Italian ahead of Carlos Tevez, who remained on the bench throughout. It was also testament to the less obvious battling qualities of a City team who were forced to overcome some stoic Everton defending, including David Moyes' decision to deploy Jack Rodwell in a man-to-man marking role on David Silva. "In Italy we marked like this 20 years ago," said Mancini. "When we met a team who had an important player who could change a match, this was be normal. And David Silva is an important player." The Spain star did not have a problem with Rodwell's attentions. "I don't know about it being a compliment," he shrugged. "That is the way they decided to play and we tried to deal with it. "It was a new and valuable experience for me because it has never happened before." For once, Manchester United did not eclipse City's result immediately afterwards, so now all that separates the two clubs is goal difference. The Manchester rivalry will be set aside this week though, as City head to Munich for a Champions League game that confirms their newly-found status; an English opponent against the four-times European Cup winners Bayern. "There are similarities and differences," said Milner. "You are playing against different styles when you play European football. "The Premier League is very fast. Europe is slower and you probably see more fouls. "It is something you might not be used to if you have only played in the Premier League. "Luckily we have a really good squad of players who have played European or international football, which obviously helps that transition." Although some fans were disappointed by an opening night draw against Napoli a fortnight ago, providing City avoid defeat in the Allianz Arena on Tuesday, their debut in the competition will have got off to a solid start. Defeat would give them a problem though, especially if there was a positive result in Napoli's encounter with Villarreal. However, Milner does not want to look too far into the future. "Tuesday is a big game," he said. "Four points would be a lot different to getting another draw or a defeat, so this game could shape the group. "But there are a lot of games to play. It doesn't seem many but there are still 15 points to play for. "Ten gets you qualified more often than not so we will just take it a game at a time. "They are all tough games but we are more than ready for it."
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