Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini has admitted he is seriously concerned about Mario Balotelli after the striker suffered yet another injury setback in his disjointed first season in England.
Mancini worried about Balotelli
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Balotelli is set for a month on the sidelines after a recurrence of a knee injury originally suffered during his debut against Timisoara in August. Balotelli, 20, was forced to have an operation that kept him out for two months, although he was quickly sidelined again through suspension after collecting a red card at West Brom.
However, Balotelli has not been seen since scoring a hat-trick against Aston Villa on December 28 and now Mancini has revealed the controversial front-man has suffered a recurrence of his knee injury. City medical staff have advised Balotelli to rest for four weeks and then resume training, in the belief that will rectify the problem. However, Mancini is not happy at the situation.
"It is bad news,'' Mancini said. "I am worried because he can't play for another three or four weeks at an important moment for us. To have an operation done and then to have another problem two months later is strange. He may need surgery. We just don't know. He must rest, then he will have treatment and work. Hopefully then he will be OK.''
The concern over Balotelli is possibly why Mancini is reluctant to sanction the sale of Emmanuel Adebayor, even though new arrival Edin Dzeko was unveiled on Tuesday. It was expected Dzeko's £27million capture would allow Adebayor and Roque Santa Cruz to end their unhappy periods at Eastlands. However, at the moment, Mancini is only prepared to let Santa Cruz leave.
"For Roque it is possible,'' said Mancini. "He is a good guy and he deserves to play. But with Emmanuel I don't know. We must wait and see.''
Balotelli's injury also means Mancini will not have to face complaints from the youngster about his lack of match action, which seemed inevitable once Dzeko's services had been secured from Wolfsburg. With Carlos Tevez, David Silva and Adam Johnson already part of the City first-team squad, it appears everyone must get used to missing out on some occasions. However, as a former member of Inter Milan's much-vaunted front-line, Mancini does not see why this should pose Balotelli any particular problem.
"When Mario played for Inter they also had Diego Milito, Samuel Eto'o and Goran Pandev,'' argued Mancini. "If you want to win you must have good strikers, especially when you play every three days, as we are going to be doing. At the moment I only have Carlos, Edin and Jo. This is a problem.''
Nevertheless, Mancini is prepared to supplement his strikers with Silva and Johnson. Not bad for a man perceived to be cautious in his approach.
"Sometimes it will be possible to play all of them,'' said Mancini. "Any team must have balance. But when we played Birmingham and Blackburn earlier in the season, we spent 90 minutes in their box without scoring. In games like that it will be possible.''
It appears Dzeko will be Mancini's only purchase of the January transfer window. And whilst the Italian has made nine since he succeeded Mark Hughes as manager 13 months ago, he intends to restrict his spending on future occasions too.
One of the reasons for that is his belief that the squad he now has at his disposal is capable of challenging for major trophies. And, whilst City currently lie second in the Premier League table, two points behind Manchester United having played two games more, he is not giving up hope of overhauling the Red Devils before the season reaches its conclusion.
"With the other strikers, we can now have one of the best attacks in Europe,'' said Mancini. "I hope Edin can make the difference between second place and first because he is a good player who maybe in 10 difficult games can be decisive.
"If we had him against Arsenal for instance, it would have probably been a different result. He is strong, tall, plays football very well with left and right and scores a lot of goals. I first spoke with him last summer and although we already had good strikers, if we had waited until next summer, another team would probably have bought him.''