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Mancini: Mario must improve

Roberto Mancini has again called on Mario Balotelli to up his game, saying the striker did not play well despite scoring.

• Blog: Peering into the future

Balotelli, 22, opened the scoring for Manchester City on his first start since November 3 as they beat Wigan 2-0 to remain one point behind Manchester United at the top of the Premier League.

But Mancini wasn't satisfied with the contribution of the Italian, who started ahead of Carlos Tevez and Edin Dzeko, and insisted he can offer more.

"I think Mario can do better," Mancini said. "He scored one important goal but can continue to improve. For me, he did not play very well."

Balotelli has been linked with a return to Serie A, but Mancini is keen to retain his services and has high expectations of him.

Earlier this month he claimed the Italy international has the potential to match Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Mancini said: "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.

Balotelli, often Mancini's fourth-choice striker this season, has been linked with a return to Serie A. His former side Inter Milan and their city rivals AC Milan have been mooted as possible destinations, but Mancini is adamant there will be no sale.

"No, no, we are not looking to sell Mario," Mancini said. "I am very happy for him because he scored his first goal this year and I hope he can improve on this.

"His goal was important because it changed the game for us. After that, everything changed.

"Mario is one of the four top strikers here and it is clear they have had some difficulty to score lots of goals like last year.

"The season is long and we need them. We have a lot of games in the next month and everything can change.

"If teams are playing in the Champions League it can change everything. Chelsea can still fight for the title and Manchester United are still top - but there is a long way to go."

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