Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini has denied that Mario Balotelli will join AC Milan on loan for the rest of the season, and said he had not received offers for any of his players.
AC Milan are interested in taking Italy international Balotelli back to his homeland, but vice-president Adriano Galliani has said City’s €37 million asking price is too high.
Milan were then reported to be trying to borrow Balotelli, but Mancini has always insisted his protégé is not for sale and has argued that he could remain at City for the long term.
He said: “We didn’t have any requests about Mario or other players. Mario has another three years on his contract. We don’t have enough players. We [only have] 18 players now. We can’t sell any players.”
Balotelli has not started a game since the Manchester derby defeat on December 9 and is likely to be on the bench for Saturday’s FA Cup tie at Stoke. And Mancini has challenged his fellow Italian to battle back to form and justify his faith.
Mancini said: "First of all Mario should work well and try to get his place in the team. At the moment he doesn't have that, for many reasons. I hope he can help us to win some trophies because he has quality. Until today, his performances were so-so. But at the same time he can improve.
"Maybe in the next four months we could have crucial games for Premier League, FA Cup. I hope Mario can help the team to win games.''
City are waiting to discover whether Samir Nasri, who has had a virus this week, will be in contention to start at the Britannia Stadium. “Samir is ill and we don’t know if he can recover,” Mancini explained.
The Premier League champions faced Stoke in the 2011 FA Cup final, when Yaya Toure’s goal won them their first trophy since 1976.
The manager added: "I have good memories. It was a fantastic moment to win a trophy after 35 years. It was important because we worked hard and it was good for the club and the supporters - a really good moment."
The Premier League champions have a fine home record against Stoke, but have not won at the Britannia Stadium since 1999.
“I think that every team that goes to the Britannia has a problem because Stoke are strong, physical, but in the last two years we've played well, had chances to win and been unlucky,” Mancini said.
"There, the pitch is smaller than Etihad Stadium, and they probably have another approach to the game, a different approach.”