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Koke to join Chelsea, Podolski eyes escape

Transfer Talk
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By ESPN Staff

Balotelli does not worry Mancini

Roberto Mancini insists he does not care about Mario Balotelli's enduring capacity to hit the headlines - all the Manchester City manager is bothered about is getting his young striker fit.

• Mancini plays down Lukaku talk
• Ronaldo warns Balotelli
• Mario Balotelli speaks out

Balotelli has courted controversy on a number of occasions in his short City career so far. He has been in a training ground bust-up with Jerome Boateng, reacted angrily to being substituted, ridiculed Arsenal's Jack Wilshere and claimed only Lionel Messi boasted as much talent as him.

This week, Balotelli has had a dig at Wayne Rooney, who he feels is not even the top striker in Manchester, in addition to boldly declaring City's forward line to be the best in Europe following the arrival of Edin Dzeko.

Cristiano Ronaldo summed up the feelings of many when he claimed Balotelli should "play more and talk less'', a pertinent statement given the former Inter Milan man is once again out of action with a knee injury.

However, Mancini is unconcerned about the player's statements, claiming they are a joke. He just wants Balotelli back on the pitch again.

"He talks, but he has also scored eight goals in 11 games,'' observed Mancini. "The big problem for us is that he has been injured so often. In three or four weeks he will come back and hopefully he can play well in every game.

"I haven't read the interview so I don't know what he has said. But he likes to joke sometimes and these things are jokes. We live in a free world. If someone wants to say something, it is better that he does. I respect every opinion.

"We are not in a war. We are free to say what we want.''

That Mancini had to ease tensions on Balotelli's behalf was not ideal. However, the front-man is presently in the United States undergoing some rehabilitation work on the injury he sustained whilst scoring a hat-trick against Aston Villa on December 28.

On his present recovery schedule, Balotelli should be fit for next month's Manchester derby at Old Trafford, which Mancini hinted might be one of the reasons for this latest outburst.

"Mario thinks Wayne Rooney is a fantastic striker,'' he said. "What he is saying is a joke. But United and City are in the same city, so these things are normal. It doesn't mean he is under any extra pressure though. He is 20. He doesn't feel pressure.''

As the end of the transfer window approaches, a number of English options are said not to appeal to Emmanuel Adebayor, whilst Monaco do not appear capable of completing the type of transfer that would interest City.

Real Madrid remain the most likely destination, with manager Jose Mourinho apparently keen for Adebayor to replace Gonzalo Higuain, who could miss the remainder of the season following back surgery.

Fulham have also expressed definite interest in Shaun Wright-Phillips, although City are looking to ensure there is some commitment to a permanent transfer before they will allow the winger to link up again with old boss Mark Hughes.

Brazilian striker Jo has also attracted interest from Birmingham, although with Alex McLeish only looking for a loan deal, that move would appear to be a non-starter.

"We have another 10 days,'' said Mancini. "It is possible something could happen but at the moment there has been no progress.''

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