Roberto Mancini tonight admitted he would "probably" sell Mario Balotelli this summer after the striker lost the plot again in Manchester City's costly Premier League defeat at Arsenal. City boss Mancini also appeared to suggest Balotelli would not play again for him this season, although the club later claimed he said that because he expected the
Balotelli will serve a ban of at least three matches after his sending off in this afternoon's 1-0 defeat at the Emirates Stadium and Mancini seemed to call on the FA to take further action against his own player for a knee-high challenge on Alex Song that went unpunished. Asked for how long he he could put up with Balotelli's antics, Mancini said: "I am finished. We have six games and he will not play in the next six games."
Pushed further on whether he would try to sell Balotelli at the end of the season, Mancini replied: "Probably - but I don't know. It depends, because Balotelli is a fantastic player. I can continue to play with Mario on the pitch. Every time, we risk one sent off, like today. But he can score also in the last minute."
Asked if the authorities should examine the incident with Song that referee Martin Atkinson and assistant Peter Kirkup took no action over, Mancini said "I hope so" and admitted the striker deserved a lengthy ban. Mancini insisted he kept Balotelli on the pitch because he did not see the tackle on Song until after the game and defended his decision not to substitute him even after he had been booked for another bad challenge on Bacary Sagna.
Mancini, who has known Balotelli since the forward was 17, added: "I love him as a guy, I love him as a player, because I know him. He's not a bad guy. He's a fantastic player. But, at this moment, I'm very sorry for him because he continues to lose his talent, his quality. I hope, for him, that he can understand that he's in a bad way for his future, and he can change his behaviour."
Mancini also admitted today's defeat "probably" ended City's title hopes, with Manchester United having earlier opened up an eight-point gap. He said: "United, in the last 12 games, have won 11 with one draw. They've done incredibly in the last two months.
"But, in football, it can change. Ten days ago, we were one point behind. Today, we are eight points. This can change also for them. Clearly, they have more experience than us, so probably it's difficult, but until it's impossible, we need to hope."
Mancini insisted he was "100 per cent" the right man to guide City to the title, pointing out the improvements he had made. There was more bad news for the visitors, with Yaya Toure likely to miss Wednesday's match with West Bromwich Albion after being forced off with a knee injury.
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger had every right to be as furious with a Balotelli challenge that could have broken Song's leg. But he said: "Fortunately, he didn't. I thought it was a bad tackle. I said to my physio, 'What happened to Song?' because he said he was touched at the knee. I thought maybe it was a red card but I didn't know until I saw it."
Unlike Mancini, Wenger said he could sense Balotelli was on the edge. "He flirted with 'orange' a few times," he said, refusing to be drawn on how he would handle the explosive forward. "I don't know him and it's not my job to do that. I don't want to interfere with Mancini's job. Everybody has his cases in his own camp and I have enough work."
Arsenal were worthy winners today, Mikel Arteta striking a superb clincher moments before Balotelli's dismissal to leave them two points clear of Tottenham in third place and five ahead of Chelsea. The result must have been all the more satisfying against a side that have poached several Arsenal players but Wenger refused to put the boot in.
Asked if the Gunners had ended City's title hopes, he said: "Not completely, no. They cannot afford to drop any points now. Once the team 'smelt the stable', it's difficult for them to drop points. In French, you say when a horse smells its stable, it's difficult to stop them."