Mancini takes heart from defeat

Martin Jol has said he would be keen to sign Manchester City’s

Mario Balotelli.

However, the striker’s manager Roberto Mancini has stressed that

the 22-year-old ‘is not going anywhere’.

Fulham manager Jol admitted he would be keen to take Balotelli

‘at the right price’.

He told the Daily Express: “He would probably cost more than the

Mona Lisa but if I could get him for ?7m I would be


But Mancini told Sky Sport Italia: “Balotelli is not for


“Mario is a City player, he is loved by the fans and the

management. He has been an important player for us.

“A player of his quality should think exclusively to his work

and his family, he has talent and he cannot blow it as he is


“Our paths may separate if I change the team but he will remain

at City.”

Though Sir Alex Ferguson’s side emerged victors thanks to Robin

van Persie’s injury-time free-kick, allowing United to stride six

points clear at the Barclays Premier League summit, Mancini felt

his team were the better side.

The Italian believes the championship race could turn City’s way

once United return to Champions League action, although before then

he has to cope with an injury list which will be compounded by the

absence of Yaya and Kolo Toure at the African Nations Cup next


“We showed last week that we are better than Manchester United,”

said Mancini. “They do have more experience than us. They don’t

have any problems when they are behind. They continue to work.

“We should do the same. It only depends on us whether we can

recover these points.

“But the season is long and everything might change in February

when the Champions League starts again.”

Mancini remains resolute in the belief he has in City’s squad,

even though they have rarely hit the heights which drew so much

attention at the start of last season.

“Probably it is true,” he said. “But we are only six points

behind and in second position.

“We don’t have a big problem. I still believe in these players

and we do have a chance.”

Yet there are issues for Mancini to address.

For a start he has virtually abandoned hope of persuading the

Toure brothers to remain in Manchester rather than report for Ivory

Coast duty.

And given past examples, even his hope that the pair will be

available for the FA Cup tie with Watford on January 5 may prove


Of more immediate concern, Vincent Kompany’s hamstring injury

looks certain to rule him out of tomorrow’s trip to Newcastle.

“We will try but it is difficult,” said Mancini, adding the

Belgian had “probably a two per cent chance” of playing at St

James’ Park.

Then there are reports of dressing room unrest, specifically

rows with both Joe Hart and Mario Balotelli immediately after the

United defeat.

In both instances, it is easy to see why Mancini might have a


He called for a four-man wall at the fateful free-kick from

which Van Persie scored the winner, only for Hart to overrule him

to get Carlos Tevez to mark Wayne Rooney.

If Mancini’s public condemnation of Balotelli’s inept display

was repeated behind closed doors, the fiery Italian is unlikely to

have been too impressed.

“It is usual for me to talk to the players,” said Mancini. “Also

sometimes you can have a discussion.

“But I prefer to keep it in the dressing room, not like some

other people who talk outside.

“For me it is not like this. We know where these stories come


It is not the best of backdrops from which to approach a trip to


Newcastle are not even close to the form which saw them secure a

fifth-placed finish last term, but Mancini concedes City do not

have the same swagger which brought them such a crucial victory on

the penultimate weekend of last term.

“Last year was different,” said Mancini. “We were in a strong

moment and won the last six games. This year is not the same.

“They are a very good team with a very good manager.”