Mancini backing Balotelli to make up for lost time
Roberto Mancini admits he has a "weak spot" for Mario Balotelli after handing him the chance to resurrect his international career.
After a period of nearly four years out in the cold, Balotelli is now back involved again with Italy, starting in the friendlies against Saudi Arabia and France having previously not featured since the last World Cup.
Mancini knows the player as well as anyone – they worked together at Inter and Manchester City – and had little hesitation in recalling him at the start of his reign with the Azzurri.
Balotelli and his national boss have not always seen eye-to-eye, the pair once famously had a bust-up at training during their time together in England, but Mancini is not interested in the past, instead choosing to believe the 27-year-old has moved on from his past mistakes.
"I have had the luck to have him when he was a lad, he was 17 years old and he had incredible qualities, and we put him in the team," Mancini told the media. "He scored important goals in that year, in the last league games, to win it.
"And he is also the same age of my sons, therefore, like all lads of that age, one can have a weak spot.
"You know lads, like all of us, can make mistakes, if they were perfect it would be a different world, therefore you also need lads who make mistakes - we are there to help them.
"He is a player with qualities, definitely in these years he wasted some of them but luckily for him he is still young and therefore he's got many years ahead of him to get back."
Such is Mancini’s faith in Balotelli, he considered naming the forward as captain for the 3-1 defeat to France.
While the inclusion of Leonardo Bonucci in the starting XI saw Balotelli miss out on the honour, he is less concerned with wearing the armband and more interested in setting an example.
“Well, to be honest, being the captain, to me, doesn't make much difference, because I am in this team to score goals, not to be the captain,” he said ahead of the friendly with Netherlands on Monday.
“Being an example, well, you can be that even without that stripe. I believe that, for others though, it could be a good sign, a good thing to see, maybe especially for the immigrants, for the Africans who live in Italy.
“Representing Italy as person with African origins, and being the captain, that would be a strong signal."