Carlos Tevez has warned Mario Balotelli not to make the same mistakes he did if the volatile Italy striker wants to salvage his Manchester City career.
As revealed in Sportsmail, City boss Roberto Mancini has finally lost patience with Balotelli following their training-ground bust-up last week and is ready to sell him at the earliest opportunity.
Tevez has been on the brink of leaving City on several occasions, accusing Mancini of treating him ‘like a dog’ over their infamous fallout in Munich, but the Argentina striker is back in favour and scored the first goal in Saturday’s 3-0 FA Cup win over Watford.
Balotelli also played for the first time in six games as a second-half substitute, and Tevez believes the 22-year-old can still have a future at City if he follows his advice, on and off the pitch.
‘I’ve been in that moment, like him, and I’m always keen to help him and keep him going through these kind of moments so he doesn’t make the same mistakes that I did in the past,’ said Tevez.
‘I try to help him. I talk to him personally, on and off the pitch. I talked to him just before a free-kick we were about to take. I let him take it so he could improve his confidence, so things can get better and better for him.
‘Mario has been doing OK. He has been working and trying to improve, and you can always improve as a player. That’s what he did coming back from illness and injury, and it’s what he’s been trying to do.’
Tevez was playing in the FA Cup for the first time since lifting the trophy in 2011 while still under a cloud after withdrawing a transfer request. He missed last season’s third-round exit to his old club Manchester United because he had gone AWOL in Argentina following his row with Mancini in Munich when he refused to warm up.
He insisted that confrontations like the one Balotelli had with the manager on Thursday morning are commonplace at United and his other former clubs, but the access photographers have to City’s training ground means they always receive maximum publicity.
‘There are these kind of things that have happened at all the clubs I’ve been at,’ said Tevez. ‘Here at City the spotlight is always on us, as it is always on Roberto and Mario, so it always comes out.’
Balotelli might not even have been in the squad had the injured Sergio Aguero, expected to be out for two weeks with a hamstring strain, and suspended Samir Nasri been available, but he came on as a 71st-minute substitute for Edin Dzeko following a brief pep talk from Mancini.
He looked to be fired up for the occasion and had several attempts on goal, including the late effort blocked by goalkeeper Jonathan Bond that led to teenage debutant Marcos Lopes scoring City’s third from the rebound.
Watford boss Gianfranco Zola, who was in charge of Balotelli for one game as coach of Italy’s Under 21s, spoke to him at the final whistle. Afterwards Zola said that self-control is the key to whether Balotelli stays at City.
‘I don’t know if Manchester City want to persevere with him or not,’ admitted Zola. ‘What I can say is that it’s a pity such a young player with so much potential is having a rough time.
‘That’s what concerns me because I know the boy and I know the potential he has. I would love to see him shining a little bit more.
‘That is just about his personality because the football skills can only benefit if you have a little more self-control. That’s what Mario needs to work on.
‘As you realise you have a problem and start working on it, you can get around the problem. It would have been more difficult if he didn’t have the skills and quality, football-wise, that he’s got. You can see his talent. But he needs to get it all together.
‘I only had Mario for one game. It would be a challenge for me [to manage him], that’s for sure. He would force me to be creative.
‘There are always margins of improvement to everything but I’m sure Roberto is doing well with him. Mario can be handled. It’s finding the right buttons to push.’ – Daily Mail