Mario Balotelli’s career at Manchester City is hanging in the balance after manager Roberto Mancini gave the clearest indication yet that he is willing to sell the troubled striker.
Mancini admitted his patience was wearing thin with the 21-year-old Italian who was sent off for the third time this season in Man City’s 1-0 defeat at Arsenal on Sunday.
When asked if Balotelli would be sold, Mancini said: “Probably – but I don’t know. It depends, because Balotelli is a fantastic player.
“Every time we risk one (man being) sent off, like today. But he can score also in the last minute.
“It’s clear he’s created big problems, but he’s scored important goals.
“He needs to change his behavior if he wants to improve his life. I’ve seen players finish in two or three years with huge talent. He needs to change.”
Sunday’s loss leaves City eight points behind arch rivals Manchester United, dealing a potentially fatal blow to their Premier League title hopes.
Balotelli, who has earned a reputation for his controversial antics both on and off the pitch, was red-carded for a foul on Barcary Sagna on Sunday.
He could also receive a retrospective punishment from the English Football Association for a dangerous tackle on Alex Song earlier in the game which match officials failed to see.
Replays showed Balotelli going in knee-high on the Arsenal midfielder, who escaped serious injury.
But despite last week admitting Balotelli was so frustrating he would punch him if they were teammates, Mancini refused to condemn the footballer outright.
“I love him as a guy, I love him as a player, because I know him. He’s not a bad guy. He’s a fantastic player,” he said.
“But, at this moment, I’m very sorry because he continues to lose his talent, his quality.
“I hope, for him, that he can understand that he’s in a bad way for his future, and he can change his behavior in the future.”
It is the latest controversy for the forward who crashed his Bentley in Manchester city center last week.
But with six games left for City this season and hopes of a first English title in 44 years all but dead in the water, Mancini’s own position at the club will also be under scrutiny.
He insisted he was “100%” the right man for the job, saying: “When I arrived, City were seventh or eighth. After six months, we were fighting for the Champions League and lost to Tottenham one game from the end.”