Balotelli, who joined City from Inter Milan in 2010 for £24 million, has often made the headlines for the wrong reasons; from his bathroom catching fire due to the setting off of fireworks, to the Italy international being warned by his boss about the perils of smoking.
Yet the 21-year-old's talent remains unquestioned, and since his arrival in England he has impressed by scoring 14 goals in 31 Premier League appearances.
"He is a strange man. A good man, a kind man, but I do not understand him," Mancini told the Daily Mail. "It feels as if I need my own special translator, just for Mario.
"He is an incredible player but he does not understand his strength, what he could achieve as a player. Maybe he needs more time. Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo, these are the players whose talent is up there with Mario, but they are clever, they know the career is short and it is no use waiting until you are 40 before you realise how good you were.
"Mario first played when he was 16. He has, at most, 15 years as a top player and he is 21 now. He does not know how lucky he is at the moment. But he needs to arrive at that point soon.
"I just hope Mario can understand how much he will improve when he becomes a man. He could be so important for me."
• Catch action from every Barclays Premier League match on your mobile for FREE on the enhanced ESPN Goals app (UK only).