Roberto Mancini has told Sky Sports that a reunion with Mario Balotelli at Inter Milan is highly unlikely.
The Daily Mirror is among those to have suggested that an imminent return to Italy could be on the cards for Liverpool’s struggling striker.
Balotelli has taken in two previous spells in Milan, under Mancini at Inter and with their arch-rivals AC.
He only left the San Siro for a second time last summer, with Liverpool returning him to English football.
His last stint saw him taste Premier League title success with Mancini at Manchester City, with the Blues boss able to get the best out of an enigmatic talent.
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It has been speculated that he is interested in rescuing Balotelli from his Anfield nightmare during the current transfer window, but the 50-year-old coach insists that is not the case.
Mancini told Sky Sports News HQ on Thursday: “I love Mario. I love Mario as a guy, I love Mario as a player. I hope that he plays very well for Liverpool. He has had some problems but his quality is top. I hope that he can help Liverpool.
“I think for him, in Italy, it is difficult at this moment. Not for me, because I don’t have any problem, but with the whole situation. I think it is important that he focuses on Liverpool at the moment. Liverpool are a top club, he has a good manager and it is important for him to play well for Liverpool.”
How do you handle Super Mario?
Mancini has been the man to get the most out of Balotelli on a consistent basis.
Jose Mourinho tried and failed at Inter, those he worked under at AC Milan saw him impress in bursts, while Brendan Rodgers has been unable to unlock his obvious talent.
During his time at Manchester City, Balotelli appeared to have a love-hate relationship with Mancini.
That, though, appeared to suit both parties, with two fiery Italians prepared to go toe-and-toe and put their passion to good use where it matters most – in the heat of competitive action.
Maybe Mancini is the only man capable of summoning up that spirit in Balotelli and the pair will continue to follow each other around for the remainder of the latter’s playing career.
He could do a lot worse.