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Apr 8, 2012

Mancini: Balotelli could be sold

Roberto Mancini says he will "probably'' sell Mario Balotelli this summer after the controversial striker was sent off in Manchester City's Premier League defeat at Arsenal that signalled a virtual end to their title challenge.

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Mancini also appeared to suggest Balotelli would not play again for him this season, although the club later claimed he said that because he expected the Football Association to throw the book at the controversial 21-year-old.

Balotelli will serve a ban of at least three matches after his sending off in this Sunday's 1-0 defeat at the Emirates Stadium and Mancini seemed to call on the FA to take further action against his own player for a knee-high challenge on Alex Song that went unpunished.

Asked for how long he he could put up with Balotelli's antics, Mancini said: "I am finished. We have six games and he will not play in the next six games.''

Pushed further on whether he would try to sell Balotelli at the end of the season, Mancini replied: "Probably - but I don't know. It depends, because Balotelli is a fantastic player.

"I can continue to play with Mario on the pitch. Every time, we risk one sent off, like today. But he can score also in the last minute."

Mancini admitted Balotelli had created "big problems'' for his team-mates but joked the media would be happy for him to stay in the Premier League.

"If Mario leaves England, what will you do?'' he said. "You should be happy if Mario stays here. You can write one, two or three pages in your newspapers!''

Asked if the authorities should examine the incident with Song that referee Martin Atkinson and assistant Peter Kirkup took no action over, Mancini said "I hope so'' and admitted the striker deserved a lengthy ban.

Mancini insisted he kept Balotelli on the pitch because he did not see the tackle on Song until after the game and defended his decision not to substitute him even after he had been booked for another bad challenge on Bacary Sagna.

Mancini, who has known Balotelli since the forward was 17, added: "I love him as a guy, I love him as a player, because I know him. He's not a bad guy. He's a fantastic player.

"But, at this moment, I'm very sorry for him because he continues to lose his talent, his quality. I hope, for him, that he can understand that he's in a bad way for his future, and he can change his behaviour.''

Mancini had said before the game that if Manchester United were to beat QPR and his side lost at Arsenal the title race would be over, but after their 1-0 defeat at the Emirates the Italian said City will keep on fighting.

When asked if the championship was gone: "No, it's not mathematically (over), but it's clear now that it's very difficult. We have a game in three days and we will try to win. Never say never in football.

"United, in the last 12 games, have won 11 with one draw. They've done incredibly in the last two months. But, in football, it can change. Ten days ago, we were one point behind. Today, we are eight points. This can change also for them.

"Clearly, they have more experience than us, so probably it's difficult, but until it's impossible, we need to hope.''

Arsenal had the better of the chances and hit the woodwork three times before Mikel Arteta's 87th-minute winner. The victory lifted Arsene Wenger's men up to third spot in the table, two points ahead of Spurs and five clear of Chelsea and Newcastle in fifth and sixth.

Arteta said: "I think we were the better team over the whole game, we had the most chances. We scored at the end and for us it's a massive game.

"It was so important, Chelsea won yesterday, Newcastle have been very consistent in the last few games, Tottenham are still in there and it's going to be a big fight from here to the end of the season, but we knew that today was one of the more difficult games for us.

"There was a lot to play for (for both teams). For them it was massive, because now it will be really tough for them to catch Man U and for us if we lost today we would have two teams two points behind us with six games to go. We are so happy.''

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger had every right to be as furious with a Balotelli challenge that could have broken Song's leg.

He said: "Fortunately, he didn't. If the referee had television, he would have given him a red card. I thought it was a bad tackle. I said to my physio, 'What happened to Song?' because he said he was touched at the knee. I thought maybe it was a red card but I didn't know until I saw it.''

Unlike Mancini, Wenger said he could sense Balotelli was on the edge.

"He flirted with 'orange' a few times,'' he said, refusing to be drawn on how he would handle the explosive forward. "I don't know him and it's not my job to do that. I don't want to interfere with Mancini's job. Everybody has his cases in his own camp and I have enough work.''

Asked if the Gunners had ended City's title hopes, he said: "Not completely, no. They cannot afford to drop any points now. Once the team 'smelt the stable', it's difficult for them to drop points. In French, you say when a horse smells its stable, it's difficult to stop them.''

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