Mancini backing Balotelli to make up for lost time with Italy
Roberto Mancini admits he has a "weak spot" for Mario Balotelli after handing the forward the chance to resurrect his international career.
After nearly four years out in the cold, Balotelli is back involved again with Italy and started the friendlies against Saudi Arabia and France.
Mancini knows the player well, the pair having previously worked together at Inter and Manchester City, and he had little hesitation in recalling Balotelli following his appointment with the Azzurri.
While the pair have not always seen eye-to-eye - they once famously had a bust-up at training during their time together in England - Mancini has backed the temperamental 27-year-old to make up for lost time with the national team.
"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 said. "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."
#Mancini @robymancio: "E' un progetto nuovo, stiamo cercando gli equilibri"— Nazionale Italiana (@Vivo_Azzurro) June 3, 2018
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Such is Mancini's faith in Balotelli, he considered naming him captain for the 3-1 defeat away to France on Friday.
While Leonardo Bonucci instead took on the duties for the game in Nice, Balotelli - who was born in Italy to Ghanaian parents - believes wearing the armband could set a positive example for immigrants in his homeland.
"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 told the media 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."
#Balotelli: "Sono qui per fare #gol e gruppo"— Nazionale Italiana (@Vivo_Azzurro) June 3, 2018
La sintesi della conferenza stampa dell'#attaccante della #Nazionale in vista dell'amichevole a #Torino contro l'#Olanda 🇳.#ItaliaOlanda #ItaOla #Azzurri #VivoAzzurro @FinallyMario pic.twitter.com/4QM9H4lCB7