Balotelli has scored eight times in 11 appearances for City but his team-mates had to tell him to smile after his first goal and, at the final whistle, he headed straight down the tunnel without acknowledging the supporters or waiting for the match ball. "He is homesick," Mancini said. "He's 20 years old, it's the first time he has been away from his family and it's normal that he misses his family."
The Guardian revealed today that Balotelli was unhappy in Manchester and had regrets about leaving Italy, complaining that he feels bored and lonely. Mancini shook his head when he was asked whether it could lead to the player wanting to leave but he admitted the £25m signing from Internazionale was not enjoying playing in the Premier League.
"After the first goal he celebrated – that's the first step forward – but the more important thing is he scored three goals," Mancini said. "He is a good guy. He is not like he appears on the pitch. He likes to give this image, this impression, that he's hard, serious and doesn't like to play. But he is a different guy off the pitch."
Mancini believes the 20-year-old needs to learn from Cristiano Ronaldo's early experiences at Manchester United. "Brian Kidd [City's assistant manager] told me that Cristiano Ronaldo had the same problems as Mario when he arrived at United, and needed time to adjust. He [Balotelli] is learning. Even a World Cup winner like David Silva struggled here at the beginning.
"One has to understand this country and this football before he can give his best. Silva has managed it, and now he's playing great. Mario is working on it, and knows he has to do more for himself as well as for the team.
"When he has grasped this, and starts to make use of his qualities, he will become an important player for us. He's a player who can make the difference in any game, for any team."
Mancini returned to the subject of Balotelli's state of mind when asked whether he had a wish for the new year. "Mario to smile," he replied. "Often."
City's manager, who confirmed his interest in Wolfsburg's Edin Dzeko and Benfica's David Luiz, may be in trouble with the Football Association after criticising the standard of officiating in the Premier League in an interview with Gazzetta dello Sport.
"I have the impression that referees are prejudiced, to say the least, with City," he said. "And I do not understand why."
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010
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