Roberto Mancini has told Corriere delle Sera that Mario Balotelli is a ‘weaker’ player than the one he worked with at Manchester City and is in danger of wasting his talent.
Balotelli continues to struggle on the books of Liverpool following a return to the Premier League in the summer of 2014.
Mancini admits he expected more from the Italy international at Anfield and at previous employers AC Milan.
He has, however, seen enough of the 24-year-old throughout his career to know how difficult he can be to handle and to generate positive performances from.
The pair landed the English title together in 2011/12, but Balotelli has gone backwards from that point and Mancini admits he could go the same way as Brazilian frontman Adriano, who set Serie A alight with Inter Milan before slipping off the radar and recently returning to football at Le Havre.
Mancini told Corriere delle Sera: “In the Inter shirt with me he was a boy, he would have done anything, even cleaning the locker rooms. At [Manchester] City, he was well-behaved for two-and-a-half years. With Mario it's never easy - what you tell him goes in through one ear, and out from the next. But I owe him gratitude.
“As a person, I feel a strong affection towards him. He is a good person, someone who acts with his heart. I think he's doing his very best at Liverpool. It's all up to him. He is still young, he has the strength to get back up.
“As for his head, well... he does have to find that. After leaving City he became weaker in every aspect of the game. I was convinced he could do well in Milan, but that was not the case. I have no clue what his medicine could be, but anyone coaching him should be paid double – a Balotelli indemnity.
“He risks ending up like Adriano. Maybe for different reasons, but that's what he could end up like.”
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Adriano enjoyed productive spells in Italy with Parma and Inter before returning to his homeland in 2009.
He has suffered a steady decline since then and spent eight months without a club before linking up with French outfit Le Havre in January.
Balotelli still has time on his side and remains a match-winner on his day, but Mancini is not the only coach to have questioned his attitude and he needs to be wary of becoming a forgotten man.