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Balotelli 'can be one of world's greats'

Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini has told Mario Balotelli that he could be as good as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo if he works harder and lives his life properly.

City meet Ronaldo and Real Madrid in the Champions League on Wednesday, with Balotelli a doubt because of a back injury sustained while on international duty with Italy last week.

Balotelli, 22, is yet to score a league goal this season and is now only fourth in the pecking order for striking positions at the Etihad.

Mancini believes he could be one of the top three players in the world if he realises his potential - but only if he concentrates on football and emulates the attitudes of Ronaldo and Messi.

"Outside the pitch, Mario is a fantastic guy," he said. "Sometimes he doesn't understand what is his job and how his job is important for his life, but I hope for him that he can understand this quickly.

"Now he is 22, but life can go quickly and I hope he can improve everything. As a player, he could be like Cristiano and Messi if he understands that, to be like this, you should work hard, your mind should be always on your job and not on the other things that are not important.

"He has everything to be one of the best players in the world. It is not easy to work with him every day, but I hope he can change his mind."

Balotelli missed City's 5-0 win over Aston Villa on Saturday with a back problem. He is a fitness doubt for the rematch with Real, who beat City 3-2 at the Bernabeu in September, while left-back Gael Clichy is likely to be missing.

Mancini added: "I don't think Gael will play because he has a problem in his ankle. We will see during training if Mario is available or not."

Anything other than victory would make qualification for the last 16 impossible for City, and Mancini - whose team have taken only two points from their first four games - added: "It was a difficult group when we started and now is very difficult because we did some mistakes in the first two games."

Mancini said Real, along with Barcelona, are the favourites to win the competition, adding: "It is my opinion that Real Madrid is the best team in the world with Barca, and when you play against Real, you play against 11 top players."

It will be Jose Mourinho's 100th Champions League match as a manager but Mancini insisted the focus should not be on the touchline battle between the Portuguese and his predecessor as Inter manager.

He said: "To get 100 caps in the Champions League at his age is very important, but I think it is not Mourinho against Mancini but City against Real Madrid. The players are more important than us."


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