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Mancini: Mario one of the world's best

Roberto Mancini hailed Mario Balotelli after Manchester City's astonishing 6-1 defeat of rivals United, suggesting the striker can reach the level of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo as he continues to mature.

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Balotelli, 21, has been no stranger to controversy during his brief career, with Mancini going as far as to describe the 21-year-old as "crazy". However, the Italian proved to be City's chief destroyer against the club's old foes, scoring the opening two goals in a remarkable Manchester derby, leading Mancini to compare the former Inter man to the game's best.

"If we want to talk about Mario the football player, we can put him in the first five players in the world," Mancini said.

"I hope for him and for football that Mario can change his mind completely. After this, he can become one of the best players in the world like Messi and Ronaldo.

"The problem is because of his age, he can make some mistakes. He's Mario. He's crazy - but I love him because he's a good guy.

"I am happy for him because he scored two important goals, because he played well, because he was serious on the pitch," he said.

Meanwhile, Mancini was understandably delighted by his team's performance at Old Trafford, but stopped short of saying that City are now the team to beat in the race for the Premier League title.

"I'm satisfied because we beat United away and I don't think there are a lot of teams that could," he said.

"I watched three or four of United's games in the last month and they conceded a lot of chances to the opponent. But 6-1, this is important for our supporters and maybe for the goal difference in the table. I am happy with the three points.

"This game is important because we beat them at Old Trafford. This is important for our confidence, it's important because we showed we are a good team.

"This is only one game. I still think United are one yard above us, still. We can only change this after we win the title. After, maybe it will be different, but now United are better than us."

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