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Balotelli tussles with manager Mancini in Man City training ground bust up

By Tim Hume, for CNN
updated 1:08 PM EST, Fri January 4, 2013
Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini was photographed grappling with his firebrand striker Mario Balotelli during a training run on Thursday, prompting coaching staff to intervene to separate the pair. Mancini later downplayed the tussle, sparked by Balotelli's hostile tackle on a fellow player, as "nothing unusual." Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini was photographed grappling with his firebrand striker Mario Balotelli during a training run on Thursday, prompting coaching staff to intervene to separate the pair. Mancini later downplayed the tussle, sparked by Balotelli's hostile tackle on a fellow player, as "nothing unusual."
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Mario Balotelli and Roberto Mancini were embroiled in bust up in training on Thursday
  • The Manchester City striker and manager had to be separated by coaching staff
  • The scuffle was sparked by Balotelli's hostile challenge on a fellow player
  • Mancini downplayed the incident on Friday, saying he would give Balotelli more chances

London (CNN) -- Controversial Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli will be given another chance after being caught in a heated training ground bust-up with manager Roberto Mancini on Thursday.

Photographers outside the English Premier League champions' training ground captured images of the pair grappling, prompting coaching staff to intervene to separate them.

Balotelli then walked off the pitch, before leaving the training ground about 10 minutes later.

The flamboyant 22-year-old has infuriated his manager on several occasions since being signed from Inter Milan for $39.1 million in 2010. Mancini recently said that the Italy international needed to train harder to make the playing team, and once threatened he may never play for Manchester City again after he was sent off during a defeat at Arsenal.

Balotelli's first-team debut came in December 2007 as a subsitute with Internazionale. Three days later the 17-year-old scored two goals during Inter's 4-1 Coppa Italia win against Reggina. Balotelli's first-team debut came in December 2007 as a subsitute with Internazionale. Three days later the 17-year-old scored two goals during Inter's 4-1 Coppa Italia win against Reggina.
A promising start for Inter Milan
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But in a statement on the club's website, Mancini -- who the photographs suggest was the aggressor, repeatedly tugging the player's clothes -- downplayed the exchange, which was sparked by Balotelli's hostile challenge on Scott Sinclair.

"Mario made a tackle on his teammate that I would prefer to see in a game, and not against a teammate," said Mancini.

"I asked him to leave the pitch -- he said no, so I moved him off. That's all that happened and it was nothing more than that."

The Italian described the incident as "nothing unusual" and insisted it had "already been forgotten." Balotelli appeared at the club as usual for training on Friday.

"My thoughts have not changed about him and these things happen from time to time," Mancini said.

"Will Mario have more chances? I will give him 100 chances as long as I can see him trying to improve and working hard for this football club."

The gifted but inconsistent performer's relationship with his club and manager have often been strained, prompting Mancini to once remark after a match that if Balotelli had been a teammate during his own playing days, he may have given him a punch in the head every day.

Since his arrival in the UK, Balotelli has made headlines for setting his house on fire with fireworks, handing out wads of money to the homeless, tussling with teammates on the pitch and throwing darts at his club's youth team players.

His poor disciplinary record, which saw him miss a total of 11 domestic and European games through suspension during the past season, led the club to dock him two weeks' wages.

Balotelli appealed to an English Premier League tribunal over the fine, but recently dropped the matter in a gesture the club described as "a sign of respect for Roberto Mancini, the supporters and the club."

Will Mario have more chances? I will give him 100 chances as long as I can see him trying to improve and working hard for this football club
Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini

Despite Balotelli's failure to impress on the pitch this season, Mancini recently insisted the club would not be selling the striker during the January transfer window, stressing his "love" for his fiery compatriot -- who he also managed at Inter.

"I think Mario will stay but the future depends mostly on him," he told Italian media.

"The relationship between me and him is always good, even if one day he does something. I love him because for many years we live together. I've seen him grow. But the professional relationship is another thing and I've told Mario what I need from him.

"The time of cheap talk is over. Balotelli is 22 years old and now it's time to be professional. I ask from him seriousness and commitment in training, a more stable private life and correct behavior on the pitch."

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