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Football | Italy

Mario Balotelli © Action Images

Mancini backs Balotelli to come good



Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini has backed Mario Balotelli to become a great player at AC Milan now that he has ended his time in the Premier League.

Balotelli, 22, joined the Serie A giants for a reported £19 million ($30.1 million; 22.2 million euros) fee this week after two-and-a-half eventful years at the Etihad Stadium.

The striker was involved in training ground bust-ups and off-field incidents including fireworks being set off in his home, while also showing flashes of brilliance on the pitch in helping City to a Premier League title and FA Cup win in his time in Manchester.

Mancini admitted his disappointment to see the Italian striker leave but predicts he will go on to become a top player now he is closer to his family in his homeland.

"It was good for everyone; for Mario, to take a big chance to go to Italy and play with top club like Milan. It was important for him and for the club," said Mancini.

"No, we are not happy. Mario did well, maybe not in the last three or four months because of injury, but he helped us win the Premier League and FA Cup. We are sad that he leaves.

"It was difficult. It was only my decision. I believe in him and I believe for him after two years in England, it was important for him to go back to Italy."

When asked if Balotelli could become the superstar that the City manager has predicted he could be, Mancini responded: "Yes, yes.

"He has everything. He has quality, it is important he can understand this. I think to play for Milan is important."

With Balotelli having left, Mancini has just three main strikers in Sergio Aguero, Carlos Tevez and Edin Dzeko, but the City manager is confident that will be enough as they prepare to face Liverpool on Sunday.

"Now we have three strikers, but we have only the Premier League and the FA Cup, which could be enough," said Mancini.

The City coach also revealed that there was no late dash to bring in a new player on transfer deadline day to replace Balotelli.

"No, we did not (try). It is difficult for us to take a good player from another club at this time," he said.

More worryingly for Mancini is that captain Vincent Kompany is set for three weeks on the sidelines with the calf injury that he picked up in City's 1-0 win at Stoke City in the FA Cup last weekend.

The Belgian international is not expected to return until City face Chelsea on February 24 and will miss Sunday's game, the subsequent visit to Southampton, and the FA Cup fifth-round clash with Leeds United.

"Vinnie is out. I hope he can recover after the FA Cup," Mancini said.

City could be a massive 10 points behind rivals Manchester United by the time they face Liverpool on Sunday, as Alex Ferguson's side face Fulham on Saturday.

But Mancini is confident his team can close the gap on the Premier League leaders before the end of February.

He said: "I think when we arrive at the end of February, the gap will be very, very small.

"In every championship, never one team won a title in January here. We should fight until April. If they have seven, eight, nine points (lead) in April, it could be difficult, maybe, but in this moment, we have a big chance."

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