Mario Balotelli faces being dropped from the Italy squad as a punishment for his latest red card.
A public apology is also unlikely to spare him from being dropped for Manchester City's match at Chelsea on Sunday. City's manager, Roberto Mancini, has made the frank admission that he no longer feels he can trust the striker for a game of such magnitude.
"I don't know if I can rely on him for a game like this," said Mancini, who is usually Balotelli's most voluble supporter. Balotelli has scored 10 goals in 20 appearances for City but he has also had two red cards and nine yellows and a training-ground fight with Jérôme Boateng. He has shown little sign that he will ever accept authority in his life. That feeling extends to the national squad, whose coach, Cesare Prandelli, plans to take a hard line and leave out Balotelli when he announces his squad on Sunday for a Euro 2012 qualifier in Slovenia on 25 March and a friendly against the Ukraine four days later.
Balotelli, in short, faces an enforced spell out of the game as the two managers try to address the pattern of behaviour that led to what Mancini described as a "stupid" red card in City's Europa League tie against Dynamo Kyiv. Balotelli, in a carefully prepared statement, said he was "very sorry" but he will be fined and there are clear signs at Eastlands that his apparently magnetic attraction to controversy will no longer be tolerated.
"I don't think he will be in the squad [against Chelsea]," Mancini said. "I'm going to chat with him in the next couple of days and we'll see. Mario is young but he needs to think about what he wants to do because he has everything he needs to become a fantastic striker. But he lost the [Kyiv] tie for us and I am angry with him, definitely. Important players cannot do what Mario did."
Balotelli was also caught up in an incident after the match, when he jumped out of his car to remonstrate with a group of supporters who are said to have flashed V-signs in his direction. "I hope, every day, that he will change his behaviour," Mancini said. "But I can't understand his bad behaviour sometimes. Sometimes I can, but other times I can't. I just hope he can change."
The 20-year-old did at least apologise to his team-mates after Thursday's game and he followed up with a statement on the club's website that expressed his regret for the way he rammed his studs into the chest of the Dynamo defender Goran Popov. It is also understood that Balotelli will travel to London, despite Mancini's threat.
"It was not my intention to hurt anyone, I want to express my sincere apologies to Popov," Balotelli said. "I was trying my best for the team, as I always do. The ball was in the air and I went for it with my foot high. I never tried to make contact with Popov and I certainly didn't want to hurt him. In retrospect, however, the tackle was poor and I'm very sorry to my team-mates in particular that I got sent off so early in such an important game.
"I should have showed more consideration, but I was so involved in the game. It was not a good way to repay the manager who has shown so much faith in me, or the owners and fans who have made me so welcome since I arrived from Italy. I hope they forgive me and see that I want success with Manchester City. From my injury on, I have had some difficulties. It is not an easy period for me but I will overcome it with the help of everybody."
Balotelli, nonetheless, is in danger of losing the trust of the other players. "He is a young boy and he has to learn from his mistakes – I told him, and everyone told him," the Dutch midfielder Nigel de Jong said.
"He has to realise you have to change your mentality sometimes on a professional level. Mario is a talented boy but I've told him he's got to learn from his mistakes and he's disadvantaging his own team by doing these kinds of things. He needs to realise that he's always going to be a marked man.
"We're going to sit with him and he's going to realise he has to change. We are there to help him, not to criticise or blast him away. He is still a young lad and has to learn. He was angry and he was disappointed. He let his team down in a way but he knows it, and it is a good lesson for him."
Prandelli is also planning to leave out Daniele De Rossi as punishment for the Roma player receiving a three-match ban from Uefa for elbowing Shakhtar Donetsk's Darijo Srna during a Champions League tie last week, an offence that was missed by the referee Howard Webb. It is Balotelli's inability to curb his behaviour, however, that is causing the more concern.
Gianfranco Zola, who coached Balotelli with the Italy under-21 set-up, said: "He can become as good as he wants. Everything is in place except the self-discipline. He is a skilful player, a strong player; he just needs to learn the self-discipline that is so important in achieving results."
Carlo Ancelotti, the Chelsea manager, added: "I cannot judge Balotelli as a person because I do not know him but he has had a lot of problems with his behaviour on the pitch, also in Italy. He's one of the best young players in Italy and Italian football needs this kind of quality. Everyone in Italy hopes he will improve his behaviour on the pitch. The Italian national team needs him in the squad, so we hope his behaviour improves."
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