Me and Mario are fine… honest! Mancini gives Balotelli ANOTHER lifeline despite rift
10:40 GMT, 21 September 2012
Mario Balotelli has been handed another lifeline at Manchester City after manager Roberto Mancini insisted he has NOT had a bust-up with the controversial striker.
The Italy international was dropped from City's European squad in mid-week and was forced to watch their 3-2 Champions league defeat to Real Madrid from the stands.
It was believed that Mancini is fed up with Balotelli's wild ways – including his smoking habit – and is fast losing patience with the maverick 22-year-old.
What row Roberto Mancini insists he is absolutely fine with striker Mario Balotelli
Under pressure: Mario Balotelli takes his seat in the stand at Real Madrid after being axed
But speaking at his weekly press
conference at the club's Carrington training ground, Mancini played down
talk of a rift between the pair.
'There has been no argument, and no row. Absolutely not,' he said.
'Mario went in the stand only because
we started to play with Carlos Tevez in attack and we couldn't have
three strikers on the bench.'
Bad habit: Balotelli has regularly been spotted smoking away from training and matches
Good example: Balotelli has also been pictured smoking in his Man City gear
Partying: Balotelli (right) was pictured with Amir Khan at the Circle Club on Saturday
Balotelli partied until the early
hours after Saturday's 1-1 draw at Stoke. He was pictured with boxer
Amir Khan on a night out at Circle Club in Manchester.
Mancini was said to be angry as he wanted the forward to rest ahead of their opening European match against the Spanish giants.
As a punishment, Balotelli was
ordered to travel to the Bernabeu despite reportedly being told he
wouldn't play a part before stepping on the plane.
Acting tough: Roberto Mancini pictured in Alderley Edge on Wednesday afternoon
Another growing concern for Mancini is Balotelli's smoking habit – infuriating for a club that pay him over 100,000 per week.
Although it is not known just how
much the former Inter Milan star smokes, he has regularly been pictured
puffing on a cigarette away from his job.
Despite his apparent frustrations,
Mancini appears intent on giving Balotelli yet another chance and the
striker is in contention to return to the City side for this Sunday's
Barclays Premier League visit of unbeaten Arsenal.