Bad boy Balotelli drives Manchester City manager to despair

Roberto Mancini sympathizes with his frustrated Manchester City squad, admitting he would punch striker Mario Balotelli.

Story highlights

  • "I would punch him in the head if we were teammates," manager Mancini says of Balotelli
  • Allegations of locker room bust-up between Yaya Toure and Balotelli during Sunderland match
  • Controversy continues to follow Balotelli after he crashes his car in Manchester city center
  • Mancini must now find answer to the "Mario problem" if he is to appease frustrated squad

How do you solve a problem like Mario Balotelli? After an eventful fortnight that saw the Manchester City striker gatecrash a press conference, row with teammates and crash his Bentley, it's perhaps no wonder that his club manager Robert Mancini has been driven to despair.

When reporters this week quizzed Mancini over an alleged locker room bust-up between Balotelli and teammate Kolo Toure, the Italian sympathized with his frustrated squad.

"I can understand it. I told him (Mario), if you played with me 10 years ago I would give you every day maybe one punch in your head," Mancini said ahead of Sunday's trip to Arsenal -- a match that could have a big bearing on the English title race.

"I think in every big game he played very well. I think his problem is his concentration, but I work with him every day.

"I speak with him -- not every day because if not I need a psychologist -- but every two days I speak with him."

It was one of Mancini's most frank discussions about the troubled player who earlier this season set off fireworks in his bathroom with a group of friends, causing severe damage.

The controversy continued with Balotelli gatecrashing new Inter Milan boss Andrea Stramaccioni's first press conference late last month. The ex-Inter player unexpectedly entered the press room as Stramaccioni was being formally unveiled as Claudio Ranieri's replacement.

Just days later he again aggravated the football world, being reportedly involved in a dressing-room row with Yaya Toure during second-placed City's 3-3 draw with Sunderland. In the same game, in which he scored twice but was criticized for his performance, Balotelli also argued with teammate Aleksandar Kolarov over who should take a free-kick.

"Yaya Toure -- that is totally false," Mancini said. "What happened with Kolarov on the pitch, that is a situation that can happen in difficult moments.

"It is not good but I can understand this situation can happen. After the game it was finished. I am not worried -- it is important that after the game everything was okay."

Then there was Thursday's car crash in Manchester city center. Balotelli, driving his Bentley at the time, escaped unhurt, while a passenger from one of the other vehicles involved was taken to hospital as a precaution, according to police.

With Balotelli's erratic antics continuing to grab headlines, Mancini may be pressed to find an answer soon -- especially if he is to quell locker room bust-ups and his squad's growing suspicions there is one rule for Mario and another for the rest.

But despite the aggravation, Mancini refuses to completely condemn the 21-year-old Italian.

"Because when you have a player like Mario you should always not talk bad things against him because he is your teammate. If you say something about him, it's better to talk face-to-face, to say what you think," he said.

"Mario is young. He can do some mistakes. He has paid for his mistake. I can understand (why players are annoyed.) I understand this. But there are different ways to help guys like Mario."

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