Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini told the media on Thursday that speaking to Mario Balotelli every day might drive him to a psychiatrist and that if he had played with the forward, he would have punched him at least once a day.
Mancini was speaking ahead of his side's weekend clash with Arsenal that could very well determine whether City can continue to chase Manchester United for the league title or if the rest of their season will be a mere formality.
The Italian manager spoke frankly of his interactions with Balotelli and his ultimate goal in handling the striker. (From The Guardian):
Every big game he plays very well. His problem is concentration. But I work with him every day. I don't speak with him every day because otherwise I would need a psychiatrist, but I speak with him because I don't want him to lose his quality.
Mario can be one of the top players in Europe. I don't want him to lose his talent.
After Balotelli's on-field confrontation with teammate Aleksandar Kolarov during last weekend's 3-3 draw with Sunderland and midweek press reports quoting Nigel de Jong calling Balotelli both a "fool" and a "genius," Mancini was asked whether the rest of the squad might be getting frustrated with the striker. He responded bluntly:
Team-mates should only play. For Mario it's my job [to manage him] not theirs. Because when you have a player like Mario you should always not talk bad things against him because he is your team-mate. If you say something it's better to talk face to face – to say what you think.
Pressed on the issue, Mancini gave a wry smile and joked:
"I can understand [if some players are frustrated]. I told [Balotelli] that if you played with me 10 years ago I give to you every day maybe one punch in your head. But there are different ways to help guys like Mario."
Mancini dismissed the on-field dispute between Balotelli and Kolarov in last week's draw with Sunderland as something that "can happen in difficult moments between two team-mates." The manager said the incident did not continue after the match.
Manchester City have drawn their last two matches and dropped five points off the pace set by United at the top of the table. This weekend, City travel to the Emirates to take on Arsenal. United play host to relegation-threatened QPR.