Men's Team

Balotelli: ‘I was unpredictable… Mancini told me I’d never play again!’

Mario Balotelli revealed Roberto Mancini warned the striker ‘would never play again’ for City, after his infamous red card against Arsenal in the 2011/12 Premier League title race.

The forward was sent off for two yellow cards in a 1-0 defeat in North London, which left the visitors’ hopes of a first league crown hanging by a thread: eight points adrift of table-topping Manchester United.

City would of course go on to lift the trophy in the most dramatic of circumstances, thanks to Sergio Aguero’s sensational last-gasp strike against Queens Park Rangers on the final day, with Balotelli providing the assist!

In an interview with CITY+ ten years on, the Italian maverick recalled that remarkable period of the Club’s history in an interview for our 93:20 | The ultimate Premier League finale documentary, admitting Mancini was furious with Balotelli’s dismissal against the Gunners – but rightly so.

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“I don’t really remember a lot about before the match but unfortunately, I remember the match,” he conceded.

“The tackle on [Alex] Song was very bad from me. I’m not used to tackling like that.

“Song is a player I know, a friend. I said sorry. It was a bad tackle but you cannot touch my friend Yaya [Toure]!

“Song chipped the ball and I tried to guess where he was going to chip it. It was a very bad tackle. It could have been a red card.

“It was a second yellow [for the foul on Bacary Sagna] but my intention wasn’t to make a foul – it was to stop the shot. I went there with too much aggression but it was not my intention to tackle him.

“He (Mancini) was angry. I remember on the bus, he said: ‘You’ll never play again!’”

Balotelli would not feature for the next five games, as City somehow clawed ourselves back into contention for the title with five successive wins, while United faltered.

Despite the heated exchange, the striker holds immense respect for his manager, admitting he was ‘unpredictable’.

“I was unpredictable on the pitch but that was also my quality,” he continued. “I could do almost everything but maybe tactically, that was one of my weaknesses.

“Mancini is good in tactics. The way he prepared the match was to win so it was not a surprise when you won tactically against another team with Mancini as a coach because he was good at it.

“[The relationship we had] was very good. In training on a normal day, he was like one of us. Then on matchday, he became the manager and you have to give everything and respect the game.”

The striker returned to action from the bench for the unforgettable final day visit of QPR with Mancini’s men desperate for a leveller, trailing the relegation-threatened Rangers 2-1 with 15 minutes to go.

He certainly made an impact – as he usually did! – clipping the ball into Aguero’s path for his only City assist and the goal many deem to be the greatest in Premier League history!

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Yaya Toure had disclosed in his own CITY+ interview he had urged Balotelli to contribute more with assists.

Balotelli paid tribute to his Ivorian teammate, who played a pivotal role himself in the title success, scoring six and assisting seven in his 32 league appearances, including his famous brace at Newcastle United on the penultimate day.

“In those years, he was amazing,” Balotelli hailed. “He made the difference in the team. He was a great, amazing player but also a good personality, a good character, a good guy.

“It was very good to play with him. I’m very happy I played with him.

“I had one assist that year but I could have had more – they missed, it’s not my fault! To be a good assist man, they have to score! I’d had some bad luck when I created occasions for others and they missed.

93:20 | Mario Balotelli extended interview

“I finished the season with one assist but I’m happy with this… it was a good assist!

“[When I came on against QPR], I was thinking: ‘Change the game, I will give everything.’ In the end, we had four or five strikers on the pitch. There is no instruction in a game like this other than to score!

“We were attacking a lot… You could feel we could score from any moment. I remember Sergio saying: ‘Play to me and I can score!’

“I remember [Nigel] De Jong taking the ball, then I saw sego moving out of the area, going towards De Jong. Everybody was waiting there, waiting for a long shot. When you have to score, normally everybody goes in the area and you put the ball high in the air…

“In my head, I said: ‘Maybe we could make a one-two.’ When he gave me the ball. I controlled it but in my head, it was to shoot. I was trying to control and shoot the ball but I had no time.

“When the defender came, I saw a full wall of players. I was thinking it was quicker to shoot but it would have been impossible.

“I don’t remember who was the defender from QPR but he was pushing me and the ball went a little too far. I saw Sergio running and [Vincent] Kompany running the other way. I slid and tried to give it to him in the space and it was good!

“I always compare this moment with winning the Champions League with Inter [Milan]. This was one the three best moments I had in my career.”

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