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ESPN FC Posted by ESPN staff
Jan 29, 2013

Mancini backs Balotelli's Milan switch

Roberto Mancini admits a move to AC Milan was the best option for Mario Balotelli, with the striker set to join the Italian club on a four-and-a-half year deal.

It appears Balotelli, 22, has completed a medical with Milan and will move to the San Siro on Wednesday, although a formal contract is yet to be signed.

Following City's 0-0 draw with QPR in the Premier League on Tuesday, Mancini conceded it was a tough decision to let Balotelli go, although he insists the Italy international will benefit from playing in his home country.

"We are also sad because Mario was an important player for us," Mancini said. "With Mario we won the Premier League and the FA Cup in two years. But it's important for him to go back to Italy.

"It will be a good chance for him to stay with his family, to play for Milan. I think he can improve and I'm happy he will become one of the best players in the world.

"We love Mario and he deserves to have this chance. For me, no [he was not a problem]. Mario was like another one of my children. But you can be upset with him sometimes, but afterwards he's a lovely lad. When he left the hotel, they [the players] were really sad. Mario is a good guy."

While City still have to finalise terms with Milan before Balotelli's move is complete, the Serie A giants have shown no hesitation in claiming the striker as one of their own, already offering fans the chance to buy a personalised jersey.

Milan director Umberto Gandini revealed the signing of Balotelli on Tuesday via Twitter, claiming only personal terms need to be negotiated.

Gandini wrote: "Transfer agreement for Balotelli signed with Manchester City. Medicals tomorrow in Milan, then personal terms until 2017 signing."

Balotelli has been linked with a move away from the Etihad in recent months after falling behind Sergio Aguero, Carlos Tevez and Edin Dzeko in the pecking order. And a training ground bust-up with manager Roberto Mancini only served to highlight his rift with the club.

A member of City's starting line-up in the 2011 FA Cup final, when they ended a 35-year wait for a trophy, Balotelli also provided the crucial injury-time pass that set up Sergio Aguero for the dramatic Premier League title-winning goal at the Etihad Stadium in May 2012.

But that momentous afternoon came just five weeks after manager Roberto Mancini had said Balotelli would never play for City again after the striker was sent off at Arsenal, having been lucky to avoid a red card earlier in the same game for a dreadful challenge on Alex Song. Such lapses in professionalism have scarred Balotelli's time with the Blues.

Through most of the controversy, Mancini has stood by a player he has paid special attention to since they were together at Inter. And, until this season, Balotelli's contribution on the pitch has been enough to keep Mancini and the City supporters on his side. However, after returning from Euro 2012 with his reputation enhanced by a series of impressive performances for Italy, most notably the semi-final win against Germany when he scored twice, he has made neglible impact on the Blues' title defence.

He has made just two substitute appearances since a dire performance against Manchester United at the beginning of December, when he was handed a surprise start, but did little of note before being substituted in the second half.

Mancini backed Balotelli’s move after his side’s 0-0 draw with QPR.

“I think that they are very close (to a deal),” he said. “We are also so sad because Mario was an important player for us. He is a fantastic player but I think for him this could an important chance to go back to Italy and play for another top club like Milan.

“I hope he can continue to improve because he can become one of the world's best players.”

Information from the Press Association was used in this report.

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