Balotelli causes fireworks on and off pitch

Reuters

Sun, 23 Oct 18:36:00 2011

Mario Balotelli can be one of the world's top three players if he can cut out his eccentric behaviour, Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini said after the striker's two goals inspired Sunday's 6-1 rout of Manchester United.

Currently staying in a hotel after setting his house ablaze by letting off fireworks indoors this weekend, Balotelli was equally explosive in the derby at Old Trafford.

After netting a 22nd-minute opener, the 21-year-old Italian lifted his shirt to reveal a T-shirt with the words "Why always me?", leaving Mancini with just one explanation.

"It's Mario," he laughed at a news conference. "He's crazy but I love him because he is a good guy."

The first goal was pure class as his clinical first-time shot from the edge of the area sped into the bottom corner, while his second on the hour-mark was an instinctive close-range finish after getting on the end of a James Milner cross.

They were his fourth and fifth league goals of the season and he has now scored in four successive games to help City go clear at the top of the Premier League.

He picked up a yellow card for his T-shirt celebration, prompting Mancini to later substitute him in case he picked up a second in a tacit acknowledgment that with Balotelli you never quite know what is around the corner.

The volatile forward picked up multiple red and yellow cards last season and honed a "bad boy" reputation off the field, letting off fireworks from the balcony of his city-centre flat, suffering a grass allergy in the middle of a match and drawing publicity for wearing a bizarre hat shaped like a glove.

"The problem is his age, he can sometimes do some mistakes, but as a player he is incredible," Mancini said of his compatriot.

"I hope for him, for football in general, the day that Mario changes his (mindset) ... he will become one of the best players in the world like (Lionel) Messi, like Cristiano Ronaldo."

Balotelli said last season he viewed himself as second only to Messi as a player, prompting Mancini to urge him to back up the claim with more consistent performances.

Those displays seem to be coming now and he will hope to show them also in City's Champions League campaign, which he has yet to feature in as he was serving a three-match ban.

The moody forward does not appear to have heeded Mancini's calls to cheer up, however, with Sunday's goal celebrations as sullen as ever though perhaps he still had the latest firework escapade on his mind.

 

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